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Hazardous Gas: Forty-five percent of the schools in Colorado tested for radon have levels that exceed the federal "action level'' of 4 picocuries per liter of air. Schools were required to test for the potentially health-threatening gas and submit results to the state by March of last year. Eighty percent, or 1,162, of the state's schools complied. The state did not require the schools with high readings to take follow-up measures, but many have.

Garbage First: Budget woes late last year forced the Wales (Mass.) Elementary School to lay off five of its seven teachers. As a result, the principal was covering 58 5th and 6th graders, one of the remaining teachers was working with 52 3rd and 4th graders, and the other was trying to manage a class of 76 kindergarten through 2nd grade students. Local residents, however, did not seem too concerned. In early January, they voted against raising property taxes to rehire the teachers, but, according to The New York Times, approved a measure to raise $20,000 to maintain garbage collection services.

Under New Management?: Florida education officials are trying to persuade up to three school districts to let a for-profit company run some or all of their schools. The initiative's sponsors have been encouraged by the experience of a south Florida elementary school currently being administered by the firm, the Minneapolis-based Education Alternatives. Under the plan, the company would take over the day-to-day operation of the schools; contracts would be funded with the same tax revenues and state aid the districts currently receive.

Bleak Conditions: Children who live in rural areas are poorer, less healthy, less well-educated, and often have less access to government assistance than other children, according to the Children's Defense Fund. Debunking the stereotype that the nation's poorest, most unhealthy, and most undereducated children are members of minority groups living in urban areas, the CDC says that 14.9 million, or one-fourth of, children living in rural areas face conditions "just as bleak and in some respects even bleaker than their metropolitan counterparts.''

Racism: The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is embarking on a three-year probe of racism in the nation, with a special emphasis on schools and colleges. Arthur Fletcher, the commission's chairman, says the study will focus on school spending, standardized testing, and discrimination in schools.

Book Lovers: Teacher "reading clubs'' are springing up around Virginia this year as a result of an unusual pilot program begun by the Association of American Publishers and the Virginia State Reading Association. The project is the first of what will become a nationwide effort to nurture a love of children's literature among teachers. The associations reason that teachers who appreciate good children's books will use them in their classrooms and rely less on basal readers.

Second-Class Athletes: The money spent on girls' athletics in Boston's public high schools is roughly onethird the amount spent on boys' sports, according to a study conducted last year by a Boston School Committee member. After examining the athletic budget of each of the city's 15 high schools, Rita Walsh-Tomasini found that spending for boys' sports averaged about $20,000 per school, compared with $7,000 for girls' sports.

Building A Bridge: The Smithsonian Institution and the National Academy of Sciences have launched a venture to improve elementary school science by linking teachers with working scientists. The six-year initiative is built around a series of institutes that will bring educators and scientists together to share ideas about science and science teaching and to spur reform at the local level.

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