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Bethlehem's lab school under the microscope

Committee formed in the wake of concerns that low enrollment could prompt class cuts

— The Bethlehem Central School District has decided to form a new Lab School committee after hearing concerns from parents last month about possible changes to the program due to low enrollment in some of the classes.

The district was proposing to cut a French, Spanish and math class from within the Lab School program because enrollment within those classes was low. The district’s policy is classes cannot be held with fewer than 17 students.

“One of the things I’ve conducted over the past two weeks is establishing a committee and announcing the committee structure,” said Superintendent Tom Douglas on Wednesday, April 22.

Parents had argued that canceling those classes would greatly disrupt the format of the Lab School. Throughout the year, students in the program are asked to write a term paper and give a long presentation. Teachers from the Lab School act as mentors and help students with their projects throughout the year. If the classes were canceled, those teachers would no longer be available and others would need to work with more students to make up the difference.

It was ultimately decided the district would at least try to keep the language teachers within the Lab School. This would be done by placing students from outside of the program within Lab School classes to reach the appropriate number of students to run the class.

Douglas said the new committee would consist of district administration, high school administration, possibly one representative from the middle school, representatives from the Bethlehem Central Teachers Association, and some limited involvement from parents and students.

The superintendent said he would be in charge of selecting the district representatives. Selected were Assistant Superintendent Jody Monroe and Special Education and Support Services Director Kathleen Johnson.

“Both have the curriculum and special ed components that the program would be responsible for, which is part of our core mission,” said Douglas.

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