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Friday, January 12, 2007

School association: Newton North accreditation in jeopardy

NEWTON

The New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) today became the latest group to chime in on the debate over a new Newton North, warning that the school could lose its accreditation "in the very near future" if the city doesn't move forward in replacing it.

In the summary of a report on the current Newton North, a panel of 18 visiting evaluators praised the school's teachers and programs, but called the building "deplorable and discouraging."

"As fiscally unpleasant as it may be, the City of Newton must address the desperate state of affairs at Newton North and immediately move forward with its plan to replace the aging, obsolete, and long neglected facility," the summary states. "Failure to do so will certainly prevent Newton North High School from fulfilling its mission and jeopardize its ability to maintain its school accreditation status in the very near future."

The report by the evaluators will go to a separate committee at NEASC, which will decide on the school's accreditation. Building issues aside, the group found the climate at the school "positive, even uplifting" and the education of "very high quality."

Newton voters will go to the polls on Jan. 23 to vote yes or no on the current site plan for Mayor David B. Cohen's $141 million vision for a new Newton North.

The threat of losing accreditation has spurred numerous school districts in the state to repair aging and outmoded buildings, although what the actual consequences would be are often disputed.

NEASC is not affiliated with the state and the accreditation process is voluntary, although virtually all public schools participate. The association has no power to fine school system or force them to do anything, but instead relies on the public embarrassment factor to see that its recommendations are followed.

While proponents of school renovations sometime also assert that students from non-accredited schools could face problems getting into colleges, numerous college admissions officials have said they generally do not punish individual students for problems in the districts where they attended.

-- Ralph Ranalli

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