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The Montgomery County (Md.) Board of Education is considering a major overhaul of the district's middle schools.

A task force appointed by the superintendent last week called for the development of an interdisciplinary, holistic curriculum that would be tailored specifically to the unique emotional, physical, and intellectual needs of early adolescents.

Among the recommendations is a call for each of the county's 22 middle schools to serve 6th through 8th grades only. Currently, some schools enroll 9th graders.

Under the proposal, the schools' curriculum would not be limited to designated subject areas. Instead, it would be integrated with art, and basic life and social skills, the report states, "so that students can see the school day, and life in general, as a continuum of relevant and interrelated activities."

The study also recommends that each school have "behavioral assistants," to help counsel troubled children; that class sizes be smaller; and that both in-school and off-campus alternative programs be available.

It recommends that competitive sports programs be abolished and replaced by intramural leagues, and that girls' pom-pom and cheerleading squads be eliminated from middle schools, because "they can be interpreted as exploitative and as encouraging the role of women as observers."

Hearings will be held on the report's recommendations, a spokesman said.

While noting the county's tight budget constraints, Harry Pitt, the district's superintendent, last week offered support for several of the report's proposals.

The Fairfax County, Va., school board last week added a seventh period to the school day for 7th through 12th graders, but delayed a vote on whether to restructure elementary-school schedules.

The board meeting was interrupted several times by protests from angry teachers, many of whom were concerned about the proposal to lengthen the elementary-school week by 150 minutes and reschedule elementary teachers' planning periods.

The board postponed a decision on the elementary-school schedule for one year, primarily because of concerns about its cost. The total restructuring plan was expected to cost $24.9 million, while the plan approved last week will cost $16.1 million, district officials said.

To provide the seventh period, the school day will be lengthened by 30 minutes, and class periods will be reduced from 50 to 47 minutes beginning in September.

A 12-year-old Texas boy charged with murdering a teacher has been acquitted.

The teacher, 24-year-old Jana Simpson of Fort Worth, was stabbed 17 times outside her classroom door on Aug. 28. (See Education Week, Sept. 13, 1989.) About one week later, the boy confessed to the murder.

But the boy recanted that same day, and subsequent polygraph tests supported his claim of innocence. At the trial, the judge admitted as evidence only part of the boy's confession. The police presented no physical evidence linking the boy to the crime.

The jury deliberated for about two hours last week before delivering its verdict.

As of last week, police had no leads in the case, according to an investigating officer.

The Detroit board of education has until the end of this week to ratify an agreement to speed up the process of converting school heating systems from coal to natural gas, or its members may face contempt-of-court proceedings, including possible jail terms.

The district has twice previously failed to implement court-approved agreements with local air-quality regulators on a timetable for the conversions, officials of the air-pollution agency charged in a court proceeding earlier this month.

A county judge who heard the matter gave district officials until Dec. 1 to ratify an agreement that will force them to close schools that are not converted by the deadlines contained in a new timetable.

They have also been ordered to adopt plans for transferring students in the affected buildings to other facilities.

The conversions are required under a local ordinance that sets standards for acceptable air-pollution emissions from all sources. District officials said budget and staffing problems have delayed the conversions.

Vol. 09, Issue 13

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