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Orange looks to add labs
Orange agrees to address lack of high school science labs quickly

Date published: 9/29/2012

BY DAN McFARLAND

Orange County supervisors and School Board members have agreed to move quickly to address a shortage of science labs at Orange County High School.

The two boards held a joint meeting Thursday to discuss overcrowding and career and technical education programs at the high school.

While presenting several options for longer-term solutions to a looming overcrowding issue, School Board members emphasized that the lack of science labs needs action now.

Current lab classes average 30 students each. Safety and supervision requirements for classes of this size have meant that, for the most part, lab experiments have been reduced to demonstrations only, with students not allowed to conduct their own.

Schools Superintendent Bob Grimesey said that new Standards of Learning for science will require hands-on lab experience for students.

"The most immediate and urgent need is our children have to actually be doing labs. We can no longer just let them watch labs. We've got to get the science labs as soon as we can get them," he said.

The School Board proposed a two-phase plan to solve the problem. The first step involves installing five modular classrooms next to the high school, at a cost of approximately $329,000. Once those are in place, three current classrooms would be modified into two additional science labs, at a cost of approximately $496,000.

The total project is expected to take some nine months to complete. It could solve the current shortage of science lab space by next school year, if the request for proposals is issued by December, Grimesey said.

The boards did not take official action, but supervisors agreed that the problem must be fixed quickly.

Supervisors Chairman Teel Goodwin noted, "I think we can all agree that we've got a first step, and it is coming at us whether we choose to watch it or not. It is here."

Supervisor Lee Frame expressed support for having more labs in place by next year.

"I suggest that we ask county staff to figure out where the money comes from," he said.

Frame said solutions to the longer-term overcrowding issue need more discussion.


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