A gene-therapy experiment in monkeys has shown the ability to boost muscle size and strength, giving hope to those looking for treatments for muscular dystrophy and other diseases that cause muscle loss and weakness.

The Columbus Board of Education voted unanimously to close nine schools and reassign thousands of students to different neighborhood schools next fall. The seven-member board completely accepted the recommendation of a citizens' advisory panel, making no changes.

Board President Carol L. Perkins said the move was a business decision that no one wanted to make. "If I had my way, we'd have learning centers on every corner, like CVS and Walgreens," Perkins said.

The buildings to close are elementary schools Deshler, Douglas Alternative, Fair Alternative and Literature-Based Alternative at Hubbard; and middle schools Beery, Clinton, Eastmoor, Franklin Alternative and Indianola Math, Science and Technology.

After last month's vote, Superintendent Gene Harris said her first move would be to remind staff members and parents of their options for next year, but more important, that teachers and students need to stay focused through the end of the year. "The year is not over, and (students') education is not over," Harris said, adding that she has no doubt that everyone will continue to work hard.

An advisory panel endorsed closing the buildings and reassigning neighborhoods to new schools as a way of improving efficiency and keeping costs in line amid declining enrollment. The school board promised to close at least six schools as part of its levy campaign last year.

The district has about 53,000 students this year, down from almost 65,000 during the 2000-01 school year. Through a series of public meetings, there was almost no opposition to the reassignment portion of the plan, despite it affecting more students than those in the buildings that will close.

About four dozen district schools will have a different set of students - either through loss or gain - next school year under the reassignment proposal. When plotted on a map, roughly half the area that makes up the district will be affected.

Harris speculated that the reassignment wasn't controversial because students will be allowed to remain at their current building until they have completed the highest grade offered there.