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A record number of public high schools in Massachusetts have been warned they could lose their accreditation, and five are now on probation for deficiencies in their staffing, programs, or facilities, according to a regional accrediting agency.

The New England Association of Schools and Colleges said late last month that 39 Massachusetts schools received such warnings. By comparison, only 17 schools received warnings in 1990, officials said.

The number of Massachusetts schools warned was much higher than for Connecticut, Maine, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and Vermont, the association said.

The five schools on probation are one step from losing accreditation unless improvements are made. Loss of accreditation can hurt the chances of a school's graduates being accepted by selective colleges and universities, experts agree.

The Attorney General of New York State has asked utility companies in the state to study the possible effects of high-voltage power lines near schools.

Citing studies showing a link between exposure to electromagnetic fields and childhood leukemia, Attorney General Robert Abrams this month wrote seven public and private utility firms to ask them to study the placement of power lines near schools.

Another firm, the Niagara Mohawk Power Corporation, has already found 35 elementary and secondary schools in upstate New York that are within 100 feet of high-voltage lines--a distance considered potentially risky.

Researchers in the field, including the Environmental Protection Agency, have called for more studies of the effects of electromagnetic fields on children.

Utility officials last week were considering the request.

Vol. 12, Issue 24

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