Lawrence school administrators on Thursday discussed new initiatives they’re talking this year at the district’s latest town hall meeting. Here are the highlights of what was discussed:
• Superintendent Gary Schall said that he is “proud of the product we’ve produced” with the “huge shift” from nine to eight periods at the high school.
The superintendent boasted that only 15 out of 990 students have study hall, which he called unnecessary in the past.
High school principal Dr. Jennifer Lagnado said the “tightened schedules has improved the tone of the building” and led to “less hall movement.”
One problem that has resulted from the change is that 120 more students than last year have opted to not have a lunch period. Schall said the district is working to expedite food services for them. This includes L-passes, which allows these students to skip the cafeteria line and get back to class. The school is also working on a program that allows students to text their lunch orders in.
• Lawrence High School has initiated a new graduation requirement of five hours of community service per year.
“This new requirement is very important,” Lagnado said. “We want our students to give and cement strong ties to the community.”
• The grades of student athletes are being watched closer than ever.
Pat Pizzarelli, assistant superintendent of student and community affairs and athletic director, said any athletes that have two or more failures or a below-70 average would be evaluated to see if they should even be on a team. He said there are exceptions, such as a student with a poor home situation, who may still be allowed to practice but not play in games.
“The kids that aren’t making it, we’re giving them extra help,” he said.
Pizzarelli pointed out that most of the district’s 170 athletes have over a 70 average.
• Schall has deemed the district’s approach to universal pre-k — which involved replacing teachers with recent graduates of Saint Joseph’s college — a big success.
“We believe we’ve created a model that will be cost effective into the future,” he said. “UPK is here to stay.”
• A new science-writing program has been launched at the middle and high school levels, with the hope that the middle school’s course will be a feeder program to the higher level.
• Finally, Schall said the district is considering the Princeton Plan, which would put first and second graders in one building and third and fourth graders in another.
“I’d like us to put together our collective wisdom,” he said, “and decide if this is the best idea for our students.”