Published Online: October 7, 1998
Published in Print: October 7, 1998, as Take Note

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Human alarms

Teachers may find it hard to believe, but classrooms can be built to be too quiet.

That's the problem school officials in Barnstable, Mass., have been grappling with ever since they discovered that 70 classrooms in a new $45 million wing at the local high school are so soundproof that students can't even hear the fire alarm go off.

Until the district can upgrade the classrooms with $23,000 worth of attachments to the public address system so that the students can hear the alarms and the classrooms meet the local fire codes, officials had to come up with a creative solution in order to keep the wing open.

But it's certainly not a cheap one. In fact, district officials have been shelling out $1,000 a day since the start of school Sept. 8 to keep three firefighters standing by at all times. They will be paid from the construction project's $1 million contingency fund.

Despite the high cost, officials are making the most of the arrangement.

"It's positive in the sense that I'm sure we're the safest place around because they're here," said Principal Wayne Alexander of Barnstable High School.

Once fixed, the hurricane-proof classrooms, with cinder block walls and thick ceiling tiles, will be the safest places in the 1,700-student school, he added.

Lens fad

Teenagers have been known to trade gossip, clothing, and even the occasional insult--but contact lenses?

It's become popular, it seems, for junior high and high school students in Texas to wear and share their contacts.

Students are wearing noncorrective colored contacts or ones with patterns, such as bull's-eyes or skulls. And they aren't just wearing them, they're trading them with classmates.

That practice can spread disease, says state Attorney General Dan Morales. To combat the growing problem, Mr. Morales issued a warning last month to public school officials about the dangers of the fad.

Sharing lenses, he cautioned, could cause viral and bacterial infections that could lead to permanent eye damage.

The sale of any contact lenses without a prescription from a physician is illegal, but students are buying them from local flea markets or through ads in school newspapers.

By bringing attention to the situation, the attorney general hopes to prompt administrators to ban such ads in student papers, a spokesman for Mr. Morales said.

--JESSICA L. SANDHAM & ADRIENNE D. COLES

Vol. 18, Issue 6, Page 3

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