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A Massachusetts school-district committee has approved a "minimum physical-education option" that permits students to read pamphlets on exercise instead of attending gym class.

The elective plan, which is slated to begin next school year, would permit junior- and senior-high-school students in the Pittsfield district to read assigned health-related pamphlets. Students would not be required to attend class or take any tests under the program.

"[The proposal] had to do with class time, not money or jobs," says George Desnoyers, a district committee member who submitted the plan.

Mr. Desnoyers described the currental-education plan as very repetitive, with "no different expectations for 9th graders than for 12th graders."

According to a legal representative of the state department of education, the plan violates state laws on physical-education requirements, which mandate actual physical movement.

The department plans further discussions with the school committee in hopes of bringing the provisions into compliance with the law.

Only 26 percent of the $6,451 per-pupil expenditure of the Milwaukee public-school system is spent on elementary-classroom instruction, according to a report by the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute.

Another quarter of the per-pupil expenditure is spent on the rest of the elementary school to support the classroom, the report found, while half is spent on business and administrative functions of the school district.

The report, written by Michael Fischer, an elementary teacher concerned about the lack of resources in his school, concludes that "the bureaucratic needs of the [Milwaukee Public Schools] use up an incredible proportion of the system's resources."

The school system, which last school year had a budget of $576 million, spends 21 cents per elementary pupil per year on science supplies and books; $65 per elementary pupil for all supplies, materials, books, furniture, and equipment; $800 per pupil for transportation; and $943 per pupil for administration, the report charges.

Bolstered by nearly a half-million dollars in private funding, the Hartford, Conn., public-school system is expanding its parental-involvement and team-management program to each of

the city's 33 schools.

The district announced that four new schools this year will begin using the School Development Program, developed by James P. Comer of Yale University's Child Study Center. Two schools initiated the project in 1989. By 1993, 18 schools will participate, with all schools becoming involved by 1995, district officials said.

The move was made possible largely because of grants totaling $486,286 from the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving and The Travelers Companies Foundation. The funds will help cover the program's costs for the next three years, according to Robert Obie, a spokesman for the Travelers.

Further aid will be contingent on the success of the program in improving the schools through greater interaction between faculty members, parents, community members, and social-service agencies.

The program seeks to create a family-type environment in the schools by broadening participation in decisionmaking and problem-solving, said Jeffrey Forman, senior assistant to the school superintendent.

The school system will contribute $15,000 to the program this year. Future support will depend on budget consider, Mr. Forman said.

Dozens of vacant lots and playgrounds near schools will be cleaned and cleared of criminal activity under a plan announced last month by Mayor David N. Dinkins of New York City.

The first priority under the plan, dubbed "Operation Exorcise," is to clean up lots that were once used as after-school playgrounds but now are the junk-strewn sites of drug traffic and prostitution.

Twenty to 30 of the 138 targeted sites now being surveyed are near schools and fall into the "emergency" category slated for cleanup by year's end, said Jennifer Kimball, a spokesman for the Mayor. About 80 percent of the 138 are city-owned, she added.

A 13-agency task force has already cleared and fenced three sites near schools in the Bronx and Manhattan, and cleanup is under way at three more, Ms. Kimball said.

Free labor and at-cost materials donated by the private sector have already helped keep the cost to the city down, according to Ms. Kimball, but the city has set aside at least $400,000 for the project, and the borough of the Bronx has appropriated an additional $200,000.

The Texas Board of Education has agreed that schools should be allowed to use state textbook funds to purchase a videodisk-based curriculum for elementary-school science courses, in a move that observers said might encourage other states to weigh the merits of electronic alternatives to traditional texts.

The board late last week affirmed a decision made earlier this year by the Texas Textbook Committee that the "Windows on Science" videodisk curriculum produced by the Optical Data Corporation of Warren, N.J., was an acceptable alternative to print materials. (See Education Week, Sept. 5, 1990.)

Although school districts were not previously prevented from purchasing videodisks, last week's decision is likely to encourage them to experiment with the electronic learning aides, observers said.

And because Texas is one of the largest markets for textbooks in the nation, the board's decision could have wide-ranging effects on the educational publishing market.

Vol. 10, Issue 11

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