Cross Campus

One Campus, Six Schools: A Profile of Lawrence High

_The Lawrence Public School System has an enrollment of more than 13,000 students, many of whom are immigrants or the children of immigrants. Ninety percent of the students in Lawrence High schools are Hispanic, with white, black, and Asian students comprising 2 _percent of _the student body. Approximately 90 percent of students in the school district qualify to receive free lunch. The Lawrence Public School District comprises four early childhood centers, ten [elementary schools](, six middle schools, and eight high schools. _

__In 2011, the Massachusetts Board of Education decided to take over the Lawrence Public School System after a dysfunctional central administration failed to improve the district’s standardized test scores, which remained in the bottom 1 percent of the state, according to 90.9wbur. As the state wrangles with low graduation rates and chronically underperforming test scores, life goes on for students and teachers at Lawrence High School.__

Although commonly referred to as a single entity by outsiders, Lawrence High School (LHS) is in fact comprised of six separate schools that share the same campus. The total 3,100 students enrolled are divided into one of six themed schools, which are housed in separate wings of the LHS building in the south section of the city.

**Veteran’s Memorial Stadium, where Lancers take the field.**

The six distinct schools are the Math, Science and Technology High School (MST), Business, Management and Finance High School (BMF), Performing and Fine Arts High School (PFA), International Studies High School (INT) and the Humanities and Leadership Development High School (HLD).

“We were a comprehensive high school. We used to be academies but now we’re distinct schools. When we report to the state, we report as six different schools. For example, when we do MCAS Testing, we are sending [scores] in separately,” said Michael Fiato, Principal of HLD.

While all students take the same core curriculum, they choose electives depending on which of the six schools they belong to. PFA, for example, houses the dance program while HLD offers journalism and television, and news production courses.

Students attending Lawrence High School are required to wear uniforms during school hours that consist of a polo shirt and khakis or a skirt. The color of their shirts are determined by the school they belong to.

The uniform policy at Lawrence High School changed in 2011 since it was instituted at the opening of the new school in 2007. There used to be a shoe policy where everyone had to wear black shoes, have tucked in shirts and have a belt if you were a gentleman, but the policy became less strict because the principals felt like they were already asking a lot with requiring students to wear khakis and buy shirts.


**Upper Cafe, the upper-classmen dining hall.**

A lot of urban public schools are adopting uniform policies, like Lawrence High School. Getting rid of some of these policies actually not only helped the student body as a whole, but also helped many of the students’ parents as well, said Fiato.

“Many parents were coming to me complaining about the shoe policy, saying they couldn’t find black shoes,” said Fiato. “We felt like we also wanted to give back to the students for already following the normal policy; we also did away with tucked in shirts for guys—it’s no longer necessary now.”

The Lawrence Public School System also runs secondary schools for students with disabilities and other academic challenges, such as the School for Exceptional Students (SES) and Phoenix Academy.

SES consists of programs for elementary, middle and high school students with disabilities. The school has on-site medical staff, psychological services and intense academic help programs that the normal public high schools cannot provide.

Phoenix Academy is catered to students that failed freshman or sophomore year in high school. With a mastery-oriented approach, the school’s targeted academic programming helps these students focus specifically on the subjects they need to finish.

The $110 million Lawrence High School building was constructed in 2007, although Lawrence Public High School was founded as the Henry K. Oliver School in 1848.

The wings that hold the HLD and HHS schools in the current building were originally intended as “ninth-grade academies.”

“We used to have a ninth-grade academy model, where all ninth graders went to a separate academy. When you finish, then you would pick a school you’d like to be in,” said Fiato.

Thus the HLD and HHS schools now have more office and computer lab space than the other schools because the district had intended to give freshmen more resources, according to Fiato.