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Lawrence School Boundary Chat with Scott Morgan

December 5, 2007

This chat has already taken place. Read the transcript below.

Lawrence school board and boundary committee member Scott Morgan will join us at 1:30 Wednesday for an online chat about ongoing discussions about the lines that determine which schools students attend.

Moderator:

Thanks for joining us for today's chat. 6News Director Cody Howard is your moderating. Our thanks to Lawrence School Board member Scott Morgan for being here today.

Scott Morgan:

It's good to be here and read questions regarding school boundaries. I doubt that I will have answers for all of the questions but it will still help to hear what people are thinking.

Moderator:

For starters, please bring us up to speed on what the boundary committee is currently looking at, and how far along you are in the process.

Scott Morgan:

We have really just begun. We had our first meeting last week and it was just to organize ourselves and select a couple of at-large members from the general public. A big thing that we have been waiting on are our updated enrollment projections for next year. We expect to have them within the week.

pebbles28:

How much of an impact do past boundary changes have on the possibility of a neighborhood's boundary being changed again?

Does the school board have a policy on how often a neighborhood attendance area can be changed?

Scott Morgan:

Before I get to this question I should go back to the first and note what we are hoping to review as a committee this year. We will begin by looking at the pocket of students north of Peterson Road who currently go to Central. There have been a lot questions from parents in that area as to whether their children could go to West JH along with the rest of their Deerfield classmates. I don't know if that will work but will look into it. We will then look at so called "hot spots" at the elementary level where schools are getting high in enrollment. We know that we will need to look at Deerfield and see if the numbers are getting too high. We will also look at the affect that moving some of the ELL students back to their neighborhood schools is having on enrollment there.

Scott Morgan:

Now to pebbles28 question.

If a neighborhood has been moved recently, it does go into the equation when the board decides whether to move kids again. There used to be a policy about how often an individual student living in the same house could be moved. I'm not sure if that is still on the books but I do know that board members are not very excited about moving kids once, let alone multiple times.

Moderator:

We do have one question specifically about the situation along Peterson Rd. with students going to Central...

optimist:

I presently live north of Peterson Rd. and Kasold. My children, as the boundary lines are currently drawn, are slated to attend Central. It would seem to me that as the population growth westward continues it makes little sense for any child to attend a school that far east of their home. In our case West is approximately two miles from our home while Central is more than six miles along a heavier traffic route. Do you expect this to change? If not can you explain why not?

Scott Morgan:

This question gets back to what I mentioned earlier regarding the first thing the boundary committee will look into. We will be looking at the numbers at our next meeting and see if there is anything we can or want to do regarding the area you ask about. We are short of time for the next school year because enrollment for junior high classes for the 2008-2009 school year is rapidly approaching. Even if we run out of time for making a change for this year, we can consider recommending one for the following year.
This area has been an issue for many years. It is sort of an island among students who attend West. For many years, one of the first obstacles to making a move was that West was crowded and had portables to manage the students it already had. Central has had declining enrollment going from 488 students in 2003 to 435 this year. This is not quite the issue for West now that we have completed the bond additions. We do though, need to still consider Central's enrollment. We also will look at numbers of students qualifying for free or reduced lunch at both schools.
At the elementary level, we make a strong effort to keep kids in their closest school. At the secondary level, that is of less importance but still very much matters. As a parent myself, I know that I enjoy being able to get to my children's schools as quickly as possible.

Moderator:

Now that construction is complete at all schools from the recent bond issue -- what impact, if any, will that have on boundary decisions?

Scott Morgan:

The completion of the bond issue projects (they were able to start pouring the parking lot at South yesterday!) means that the boundary committee will look at secondary enrollments and see if any changes need to be made. There was a bit of a moratorium on secondary boundary changes during the construction. Also, while the junior highs had portables, there was little interest in adding kids on way or the other. There still might not be any need for changes but we will at least look into it.

ksdivakat:

I live on Winterbrook dr, my child goes to SWJH, but for high school we are in the LHS district, why isnt the boundaries going to include the ares of SWJH parents? Free state is so much closer, will the boundaries expand to include us in this, as well as the rest of SWJH?

Scott Morgan:

One area of interest that does come up quite a bit is whether it would be possible to keep the junior highs together as far as which high school those students would attend. Currently, all students at South feed into LHS while all of West feed into FS. SW and Central are split between the two. I know this can be hard on kids. I have had two children attend SWJH. For the oldest it wasn't a huge issue as most of her closest friends went with her to LHS. It was a little harder on my second as he had a number of close friends who went to FS. I will say that both did find, kept their friends at the other high school and made new ones at LHS.

The problem is simply the location of Central and SWJH. If you kept each of those schools whole as far as which high school their students fed into, you would have many going to a high school far away from where they live. You have that now to some extent (I live much closer to FS but my kids go to LHS) but it is less than if we tried to keep them whole. I know we will again look at it because it is a legitimate questions that many people have but I suspect the numbers still won't work.

pebbles28:

You mentioned running out of time this year to make changes because of registration at the Junior Highs. Does this time line apply to the elementary boundary issues since they do not have the same registration concerns?

Scott Morgan:

We have more time with regard to elementary boundaries. Board policy requires the superintendent to make any boundary recommendations by February 1st for the following school year. The board is then to consider the report at its next meeting following the report. However, it appears that its only deadline is that it must let patrons know "before May."

Past practice has been that it takes two readings of any proposed change before they are final. This makes the board vote on them twice and gives people a chance to comment and lobby on the proposed changes. As a practical matter, we try to do them as soon as we have enough information. Boundary issues discussions can be quite lively and people need as much time as possible to be part of the process.

Moderator:

We've spent time today discussing elementary and junior high boundaries, but what about high school boundaries?

Scott Morgan:

The 15th Street boundary between the two high schools has always had almost sacred status. It still does in many ways. That line has helped keep our schools on fairly equal status in terms of the make up of student enrollments. However, I believe the boundary committee will look at the line this year and try to give a report on how well it is still working for its original purposes. I do not see any change in that line this year but I think we want to know if one may need to be addressed down the road. We will clearly have to look at it at some point as Lawrence starts to grow south. Once the new waste water plant goes on line south of the Wakarusa I would be surprised if we did not start to see the numbers of our students growing in that area. I am not sure but I believe that our district actually has more land south of the Wakarusa than we do north. Clearly the vast majority of our students currently live north but that may well change. Right now you have LHS at 1,316 students and FS at 1,206. That includes some students at the virtual school so I'm not sure what the physical count is.
All of this is to say that the high school boundary is unlikely to change soon but people should be aware that it will continue to be reviewed to be sure it is still working.

Moderator:

That concludes today's chat. Our thanks to Scott Morgan for joining us today.

Scott Morgan:

Thank you for the opportunity to take part. I urge people to contact me by email at morgans@usd497.org if they have other questions or want clarification on some of my off the top of my head answers.

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