Where They Stand is a commentary section which poses a question about a specific issue and asks informed individuals to respond with facts, opinions, or insights on the issue. The following commentaries have been printed, unedited, in their entirety, as they were received via e-mail. If you have further comment on the issue please send an email, complete with your name, address and telephone number to ldneditor@lincolndailynews.com.

 


Wish listónew schools, new perspectives, new ideas

LDN wants to know how you would design the new school

[MARCH 24, 2000]  Itís been a long time since Lincoln has been able to look forward to the prospect of a new school building. The possibility of two new buildings, which would replace the existing Central Elementary School and Lincoln Junior High School, was approved this month by the District 27 school board. This is a once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon. Now that the board has made its decision and is preparing plans to secure state financial support; teachers, parents and administrators are beginning to think about what the new schools could include.

A few hurdles may lie aheadóthe state must approve the planóbut it isnít too soon to consider the possibilities for the new schools.

When junior high schools began to emerge on the American educational scene a half-century ago, many, like Lincolnís were housed in former high school buildings. They were seen as "junior" high schools, and their curricula, programs and physical layouts very much resembled the high schools whose facilities they came to occupy.

Within the past 20 years, the middle school movement has risen along with the construction of facilities especially designed for the age group that in many ways is unlike the younger grade schoolers and also different from the older high schoolers. Some middle schools include fifth through eighth graders; others are for sixth through eighth or even sixth through ninth graders.

The idea behind the middle school is that youngsters in the middle grades benefit from programs that are matched to their developmental stage. The National Middle School Association (www.nmsa.org), organized in 1973, supports the evolution of the middle school concept. NMSA now has members in every state and in 50 countries.

The middle school movement has been especially strong in the Midwest, and in small and mid-sized communities. With its national headquarters in Westerville, Ohio, NMSA has an Illinois affiliate in Champaign ó www.cprd.uiuc.edu/aims. Middle school advocates speak to the particular educational needs of what they call "young adolescents," 10- to 15-year-olds. The Association of Illinois Middle-Level Schools focuses on fifth through eighth graders.

 

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District 27 school board members have yet to determine whether one of its new buildings will follow the middle school concept or will be a junior high school in a new building. But teachers, parents, administrators and the school board will surely be discussing what a school for adolescents should include.

Not all middle school experts agree on what constitutes an ideal middle school, but searching for the right formula is part of the fun. Every adult remembers his own early adolescence, and those memories inform their opinions about what youngsters in that special age bracket most need in their schools. Every parent of a fifth through eighth grader is vividly aware that this is a time of great change.

The Lincoln Daily News would like to know "Where You Stand" on this issue. We want to hear from parents, teachers, students and, in fact, all readers who have ideas about the nature of schooling for the middle grades. Specifically, what should District 27 include in their plans for a new school for the middle grades? Activity centers? Security concerns? Technology? Science labs? Outdoor spaces? Where should the library be located? Or should it be a media center? Access for the handicapped? How many gyms? How about a garden? Planetarium? Can a school seem "homey"? Where do teachers do their planning? Air conditioning? Lockers in a commons area or in the hallways? Where do kids charge their laptops? Lots of windows, or no distractions? Creative places to display student art? Will industrial arts make a comeback? How about home economics?

OK, Lincoln, letís dream a little. It isnít every day that we can look forward to two new school buildings. So, email us ldneditor@lincolndailynews.com  and let us know what you are thinking.

 

[LDN]

 

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