Where should the Lawrence school district house ninth-graders?
The search for an answer to that question was not the only thing that led to the present proposal to build a second high school in Lawrence, but it definitely was a guiding factor.
In 1986, a committee studying middle-level education recommended to the Lawrence school board that it move ninth-graders out of the district's three junior high schools to create middle schools for grades seven and eight. The recommendation, however, did not specify where the ninth-graders should be placed.
"That probably was the beginning" of the path to the proposed second high school, Lawrence School Board President Maggie Carttar said recently.
Of course, housing ninth-graders in two four-year high schools was not the only option, and many other suggestions were advanced. What follows is a chronology of the evolution of the proposal to build a second high school:
MARCH 3, 1986: The Lawrence school board discussed the recommendations of the Middle Level Steering Committee, including the one to create grade 7-8 middle schools. While not specifying whether ninth-graders should be in a 9-10 or a 9-12 setting, the committee urged the board not to create a separate ninth-grade center.
The committee reported that it saw no compelling reasons in terms of adolescent development to defend placing ninth-graders in a 7-9, 9-10 or 9-12 setting. However, the report said, "Much evidence exists that indicates that 7th and 8th graders are most appropriately grouped together in terms of physical, social, and intellectual development."
Also, because students begin meeting high school graduation requirements in ninth grade, it would be advantageous to place freshmen in a high school setting, the report said.
Ninth-grade enrollment at that time was 569, and Lawrence High School enrollment was 1,789.
"Even if Lawrence High School could physically accommodate another 600 students, the Steering Committee does not support creating a high school of over 2,400 students," the report said.
JULY 21, 1987: The Lawrence school board voted 5-2 to approve the middle level committee's recommendation to take measures to create grade 7-8 middle schools.
Nov. 16-24, 1987: The School-Community Relations Council conducted a telephone survey of 415 adults in the district about their attitudes toward education in Lawrence public schools.
When asked what might be done to handle enrollment growth, 30 percent of the respondents said they favored expanding LHS to house grades 9-12. Twenty-eight percent said they favored building a second four-year high school. Eighteen percent wanted to expand the present high school to establish separate schools for grades 9-10 and 11-12, and 14 percent wanted to build a new school to allow for such a mid-high/senior high concept.
May 9, 1988: A Secondary School Facilities Task Force recommended that LHS accommodate students grades 9-10 and that a new school building be constructed on another site to provide for students grades 11-12.
"THIS PLAN assures the best possible mix of students at each of the two buildings," said the task force report. "Rather than divide the town, this plan guarantees that all of the young people in Lawrence will have the same educational facilities regardless of . . . their parents' race and/or socioeconomic status."
Another advantage of a mid-high/senior high, said the report, is that "if the community continues to grow and two four-year high schools are desired in the future, most of the facilities and locations would be in place."
Nov. 16, 1988: Lawrence School Supt. Dan Neuenswander announced the results of districtwide survey of teachers of grades nine through 12. When asked to choose between a mid-high/senior high and constructing a second high school for handling growing enrollment, 107 chose a second high school and 86 said they'd prefer a mid-high/senior high.
NOV. 29, 1988: During one of three public forums on how to handle growing enrollment at Lawrence's secondary schools, several people said they favored building a fourth junior high school. Several parents requested that the board build a second high school. As at the other hearings, few people spoke in favor of the mid-high/senior high option.
January 23, 1989: The Lawrence school board voted 6-1 to propose a bond issue for two four-year high schools rather than a mid-high/senior high. Administrators estimated that a second high school would cost $20 million. Board member Mary Lou Wright asked board members to add another $1 million to the bond issue proposal to be used for improvements at the current high school.
SEPT. 11, 1989: The school board chose 50 acres of school district land located about one mile west of 15th Street and Wakarusa Drive as the site for the proposed second high school. Of 10 locations that were considered, the site received the highest ranking based on four general categories: natural features, infrastructure/city services, anticipated costs and planning issues. PKG Design Group, the architects of the proposed school, created the ranking system.
Sept. 10, 1990: After a year of study, the Lawrence school board adopted the final resolution for a proposed $31 million bond issue for building the second high school, renovating LHS and improving other school facilities.