District News Roundup

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Van Wyck Junior High School in Wappingers Falls, N.Y., will remain closed indefinitely while efforts are made to determine the cause of an outbreak of illness among students and teachers.

The school's 1,660 students will begin attending split sessions this week at two other schools in the Wappingers Falls School District while the state department of health coordinates efforts of district, county, and national health officials to examine the school.

Students and teachers at the school have suffered burning sensations, irritated eyes, a metallic taste in the mouth, low-grade headaches, and nausea, according to Linda Nieman, public-information officer for the school district.

About 700 parents met in two public hearings late last month to urge the school board to close the school. The parents believe that new polyurethane foam insulation pumped into the walls of the building last January through April may be responsible for the illness, according to Ms. Nieman.

She added that only a few days after the school was closed, students and teachers at Roy C. Ketcham High School and John Jay High School, also in the Wappingers Falls School District, began complaining of similar symptoms.

Those high schools had the same foam insulation installed late last spring, according to Ms. Nieman.

U.S. District Court Judge Eugene H. Nickerson ruled last month that New York City education officials have failed to provide handicapped students with the special-education programs he ordered in 1979.

In ordering a magistrate to make proposals for the district to comply with the order, Judge Nickerson said in a 37-page ruling that the district's failure thus far was "manifest and extensive."

Richard F. Halverson, the acting schools chancellor, said he was surprised at the judge's "strong language." Mr. Halverson said that, since the order three years ago, "all but a handful" of the system's handicapped students have been placed in special-education programs.

In the ruling, the judge ordered the district to meet state regulations for evaluating handicapped students or seemingly handicapped students within 30 days of written notification that the students might need special education.

Placement in the program is to occur within 30 days of the evaluation under the order.

Those procedures have taken place in New York schools after a "preliminary evaluation" for each case, a spokesman for the acting chancellor said. "It's a matter of when you start the clock," the spokesman said. "We started it after the preliminary evaluation."

A committee established to study the salary structure in the Arlington, Va., school district has proposed that the district abandon its automatic pay raises in favor of merit pay.

But Evelyn Reid Syphax, chairman of the school board, said that the proposal, which she opposes, will not be on the board's agenda "in the near future." And both the Arlington Education Association and the American Association of State, County, and Municipal Employees immediately rejected the idea.

The panel, appointed by the board, said it would take two or three years to develop evaluation procedures for a merit-pay plan involving the system's 4,000 employees.

Ms. Syphax said any merit-pay system for teachers would "create a competitive atmosphere that [would have] a negative impact on teaching.'' She said the plan would encourage teachers to avoid cooperating with each other.

All school employees may now receive raises through cost-of-living adjustments, longevity payments, transfers, annual step increases, and some minor merit-pay provisions.

The Philadelphia school system has agreed to collaborate with a private social-research group in the development of a "job-search" curriculum that will eventually be implemented in 30 high schools in the district.

The project is being supported by a $2-million grant from the Pew Memorial Trust, a Philadelphia-based foundation. The program will be administered by the Work in America Institute, located in Scarsdale, N.Y.

The course will be aimed at help-ing high-school students to develop employment and job-readiness skills, according to Albert I. Glassman, executive director of the district's career-education programs. "We will be adapting successful job-search techniques taught to various adult groups throughout the country," he said.

The course will be offered as an elective, Mr. Glassman said, to either 11th- or 12th-grade students. He added that there are plans to establish a "training institute" once the curriculum is refined. It will be used to help other school systems across the country to implement similar efforts.

The Prince Georges County, Md., school board has been ordered by a circuit-court judge to provide home instruction for an 8th-grade student who was expelled from school under a new discipline policy approved by the board.

Judge Vincent Femia issued the preliminary injunction last month pending the outcome of a hearing on the constitutionality of the new discipline rules.

Under the board's new policy, students are automatically expelled if caught with a weapon on school grounds. The court challenge to the school board's policy was initiated following the expulsion of Derrick Lee Stevens in January after he drew a penknife during a fight with another student.

Until the legality of the policy is decided, Mr. Stevens will receive 6 hours of home instruction each week from school-system teachers.

Since enacting the new policy against drugs and weapons this year, officials said, they have expelled more than 100 students, compared with only one expulsion last year.

The policy has been criticized by parents, who claim it ignores the circumstances of an infraction and violates students' right to a fair hearing.

The Omaha, Neb., school board is considering a three-year, $800,000 program to expand the use of microcomputers in the classroom.

Officials in the district of 42,100 students say they are will buy only Apple computers because that brand is compatible with more commercial software programs than others.

If the board approves the plan developed by Fred E. Anderson, coordinator of media for the district, each elementary school would eventually have three computers, each junior high would have 10, and each high school would have 13.

Knowledge of the keyboard and simple commands are now stressed in the elementary schools, Mr. Anderson said. Mathematics and science are the main computer-based subjects in junior high, and programming is stressed in high school.

Vermont students with an interest in either science or the arts will have a chance to apply for two newly created "Governor's Institutes" in these fields.

All students in grades 7-12 may apply to participate in both institutes, which will be held for the first time this summer.

Participants in the arts program will be chosen by the superintendents of the state's 59 districts. Four students--two from grades 7-9 and two from grades 10-12--will be chosen from each of the districts. Science-institute participants will be chosen from the pool of applicants by a committee of scientists, educators, and parents.

The arts program, which will be held on the campus of Lyndon State College, will use professional artists as faculty members. Students will choose a major and a minor in music, drama, dance, writing, or the visual arts, according to the state education department.

The 35 students chosen to participate in the science program will spend one week working with scientists employed by Chettenden County industries and agencies. The students will hear presentations by scientists, visit local businesses and industries, and spend each afternoon working with a scientist.

The Vermont Department of Education, the Vermont Council on the Arts, and the Vermont State College System are co-sponsoring the arts institute. The state education department will sponsor the science institute.

A majority of Utah residents believe that too little emphasis is placed on the teaching of moral values in the state's schools, according to a recent survey conducted for The Salt Lake Tribune.

Fifty-six percent of men and 55 percent of women among 800 people polled said moral instruction is being ignored by the education system.

Six of 10 members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints [Mormons] expressed concern over the lack of moral-values teaching, compared to four of 10 among members of other churches.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled last month that a lower-court judge committed procedural errors when he ordered that a severely retarded student be withdrawn from a Cincinnati public school and placed in a county-operated school for handicapped children.

The case, Mary Ann Roncker v. Franklin B. Walter, was filed in 1980 by the mother of Neil Roncker on the grounds that her son's placement in the school for severely retarded children would not provide an "appropriate" educational placement. Ms. Roncker argued that her son had benefited from the exposure he had to nonhandicapped students, according to Willis Hollings, Cincinnati's assistant superintendent for student services.

The appellate court remanded the case to U.S. District Judge Carl B. Rubin for a hearing on a request that the lawsuit be allowed to represent all handicapped students in the state. The district court had refused to grant such a hearing. The appellate court also ruled that Judge Rubin relied too heavily on testimony of school officials in reaching his decision.

"The parents have not challenged the evaluation of the child; that is not the issue," Mr. Hollings said. "The issue is mainstreaming and whether he would benefit from contact with nonhandicapped children," and that, he said, is an educational determination.

Vol. 02, Issue 24

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