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Confusion, Anger Amid Closing of Lawrence High School (Updated)

Superintendent explains to group of students and parents why school was shuttered at this time.

Confusion, Anger Amid Closing of Lawrence High School (Updated)

Update: See the bottom of the story for a statement from the head of the teachers' union.

Lawrence Schools Superintendent Gary Schall on Tuesday told an audience made up of confused high school students and angry parents that it wouldn’t have made sense to shut down Lawrence High School right after Superstorm Sandy hit or even a month ago.

“I respect that anger. If I thought the district was opening the building and it was unsafe, I’d be furious,” he said in the Lawrence Middle School auditorium the same day the high school was shut down due to concerns about its electrical system. “I apologize for disrupting your lives.”

The school day was abruptly ended on Tuesday and the students sent home after district officials said they became aware of the electrical system potentially failing. The building is expected to be shuttered for two months as repairs are made. In the interim, high school students will go to Lawrence Middle School, fifth graders will be relocated to the Number Five School and sixth graders will be relocated to the Number Two School.

Bus service will remain the same, and parents can call the transportation office to inquire about getting their child on a bus if they currently aren’t on one. There will also be buses at the high school to shuttle students to the middle school.

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Many members of the audience were furious with the district for the disruption this move will cause their children, with one woman saying that her child should have not been the one to tell her the news that there was no school Wednesday. One man said that it was “two months, too late.”

Both Schall and the district’s superintendent of buildings, Chris Milano, disputed it was too late to close the school. Salt water had corroded the system to the point where the school needed to be shut down, they said.

Schall also shot down parents’ demands that the Number Six School (a bid on the building was awarded to a developer on Monday) be reopened. That building would be “a more unsafe and a healthy environment” due to mold and other air quality issues, he said.

High school students are expected to start their days as usual at 7:47 a.m. Thursday. Schedules and locker assignments will be distributed before an assembly is held. The second floor will be predominantly used by the high school; some floors will be mixed. Lab and athletic equipment will be delivered to the middle school.

Faculty members met on Wednesday to discuss the logistics of the plan.

Meanwhile, other parents told Patch that they understood why the school had to be closed.

The following statement was sent to Patch by Lawrence Teachers' Association President Lori Skongberg:

"The LTA was not a part of the decision making process that ultimately led to the closing of Lawrence High School. We agree that the school must be closed. However, we are unhappy with the fact that it took the district so long to come to this decision. We understand that things may be difficult at times with all of the resulting shifts in staff and students. However, the LTA’s commitment hasn’t waned a bit and I know that every teacher will do all they can to help their students with the transition."

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