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Nearly 95 percent of students who answered questionnaires have been granted their first choice among the four theme towers at the new high school opening next fall.

At the same time, 398 students didn't complete the questionnaire and are being assigned where space is available.

Parents will receive letters this week notifying them of their child's placement in the new $73 million building, which has four 600-student classroom towers. So far, about 575 students have been assigned to each tower.

Philip Mohr, administrator of the new Niagara Falls High School on Porter Road, discussed the plan during a meeting Wednesday evening with more than 100 parents in LaSalle Senior High School.

Some parents said they never saw the questionnaire in November, and many said their child selected a theme house without talking it over with them.

"There were shortcomings in the process, and a lot of parents were left out of the loop," Mohr acknowledged. "The High School Quality Council (which created the plan) is in new territory."

Mohr assured parents that the curriculum in all four towers will be virtually the same and that selection of a theme house does not constitute an academic decision, such as a major, but is more like a homeroom.

Some unassigned students couldn't be placed in the house of their choice -- even when it wasn't yet full -- because it already had its quota of students in that grade, Mohr added.

The houses still are not full, he said, and requests for a change of house will be considered if submitted to Yvonne Carr at the Community Education Center by Feb. 18.

The week of March 6 through 10 has been set aside for students finishing at parochial schools to register at the high school for the fall.

Of the 1,908 students who had returned questionnaires, 1,807, or 94.7 percent, were assigned to their first choice of theme house. Another 92 students, or 4.8 percent, got their second choice. Nine students were denied their choices.

Of the 2,306 students assigned so far, 398 didn't return the questionnaires; of them, 321 have been assigned where space was available, and 77 were given a house based on their particular education needs.

The four themes are:

Global business, finance and entrepreneurship.

Health, sports management and recreation.

Math, science and technology preparation.

Visual, performing and communication arts (including English literature).

Students taking honors classes have been assigned among all four houses, Mohr said, but they will attend many of those classes in different houses. In fact, he said, many students will attend classes outside their theme houses, giving rise to the term "out-of-house experiences."

"We created these theme houses in order to make a very large school feel smaller," Mohr said.

Asked whether the honors programs will be continued -- in light of discussions to eliminate them -- Mohr said they will continue as long as the School Board supports them.

"The issue of theme has been misunderstood," Mohr said. "It's not like declaring a major. Just because your child will be in the global business, finance and entrepreneurship house doesn't mean he or she will go into business."

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