District News Roundup

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District of Columbia school officials have announced plans to hire a private company to tutor high school students who are reading far below grade level.

Superintendent Franklin L. Smith said this month that he will hire Sylvan Learning Systems Inc. of Columbia, Md., to establish centers at four high schools to tutor students who are reading below the 4th-grade level. The contract, which does not have to be approved by the school board, will cost about $500,000 annually, officials said. The company has started testing students at the four high schools and plans to begin tutoring them this fall.

After stiff opposition from the local teachers' union and other critics, Mr. Smith this semester scrapped plans to turn over the management of as many as 15 Washington schools to another private company, Education Alternatives Inc. (See Education Week, March 16, 1994.)

Sylvan operates or franchises hundreds of private learning centers nationwide, where parents pay fees to provide their children with extra instruction in reading or mathematics.

Last year, in the first public-private arrangement of its kind, Sylvan took over Chapter 1 remedial-education services in five Baltimore public schools.

Costly School Maintenance: Chicago school officials have been told that they spend too much for the upkeep of their school buildings, but disorganized records make it difficult to pinpoint the source of the overspending.

A recent report to the district's School Finance Authority said the district spends $739 per student on building operations and maintenance, compared with a national median of $478. Urban school systems typically spend about $615 per pupil on maintenance.

Moreover, the report said, the accounting system that keeps track of the $2 billion maintenance budget is badly outdated.

The report recommended trying to trim maintenance expenses by $1 per square foot in each building, a measure that it said would save the district more than $100 million a year. In addition, some officials recommended seeking private contractors to do more of the work.

Parking-Lot Shooting: An 18-year-old high school student in North Miami, Fla., has been charged with second-degree murder in the shooting of another student in the school's parking lot.

Edvard Almonor was shot this month as she walked toward Jyhno Rock in the parking lot during lunch period, officials said.

Police said Mr. Rock was showing a gun to friends and then pointed it at Ms. Almonor when she called his name and approached him.

Ms. Almonor was shot in the chest, suffering internal injuries. She died two days later.

The shooting was "probably accidental,'' Detective William Craig of the North Miami police said.

Mr. Rock told police that he was holding the gun for a friend. After first telling police that he did not know the gun was loaded at the time of the shooting, he later said he did, according to Mr. Craig. The gun has not been recovered.

Mr. Rock, who is being held without bond, had no previous criminal record. A bond hearing is scheduled for next week.

Officials said that there has been little violence at the school and that no weapons had turned up in several random metal-detector searches of students in recent months.

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