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Archive for Thursday, June 6, 1991

Board leader favors closing rural schools

June 6, 1991

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The president of the Lawrence school board said Wednesday she would like to see the board vote next week to close Grant School and Kaw Valley School, two elementary schools with enrollments under 100.

Meanwhile, some members of the Grant community say the board is using a $2.6 million drop in state aid as an excuse for closing the school even though the cost savings from the closing would not be that great.

During a study session on Monday, the school board discussed closing Grant and Kaw Valley schools as part of the board's efforts to make $900,000 in spending cuts for the 1991-92 school year. Closing Kaw Valley, which has about 70 students, would cut about $70,400 in general fund expenses, and closing Grant, which has about 75 students, would save the district about $36,000.

Board President Maggie Carttar said she thinks few people would mind the consolidation of Kaw Valley and India schools, since together those schools serve grades kindergarten through six.

Grant is located northeast of Lawrence near the Lawrence Municipal Airport and Kaw Valley is located about 3 miles east of Lawrence off old Kansas 10 Highway.

DESPITE THE opposition to closing Grant, Carttar said she would like to see the board vote on Monday to close Grant school as well.

Some other board members say they aren't ready to make that decision on closings.

Tom Murray, who will begin serving on the board in July, said today he would be shocked if the board voted Monday to close the schools.

"What the issue really involves is a matter of due process, and it is simply not fair to close a school with essentially no notice to the patrons. This is just not right," Murray said.

Under the proposal discussed by the board Monday, Kaw Valley students would be moved to India School, and Grant students would be moved to Woodlawn School. Money for portable classrooms to accommodate the students would come out of the district's capital outlay fund, which will not be affected by cuts in state aid.

BOARD MEMBERS have said they would like to decide on budget cuts by mid-June so the first draft of the school budget can be ready by July.

"They want to close an entire school and a community to save $36,000," said Jeannie Blankenship, a Grant parent opposed to the proposed closing. "They haven't given the community time to respond to the proposal. They're absolutely railroading it through."

Grant serves a rural community just northeast of the city limits.

Blankenship said she doesn't want to see the school closed because "the school is the entire community. Children out there get a sense of belonging that is very hard to find these days. Everybody knows everybody there."

Carttar said she understands that the school is one thing that ties people of the Grant community together.

"As wonderful as that is, we can't keep it open just for that reason," Carttar said. "I don't think it is the responsibility of the school board to do something strictly because of that when they feel another thing is better for their kids educationally. I am personally in favor of closing Grant."

Carttar said the $36,000 the district would save by closing Grant is just one reason she favors the move.

She said she is committed to the board's policy to move toward creating more grade schools with at least three sections of each grade level. One advantage of three-section schools is the ability to move students to different classes when they do not get along with other students or with a particular teacher, Carttar said.

Grant has four classrooms, with teachers often handling more than one grade level of students.

The Lawrence school board has proposed closing Grant before. In January 1988, the board considered moving Grant students to Woodlawn and moving support staff from Woodlawn to Grant. However, that failed in a 5-2 vote, with Carttar and board member Mary Lou Wright voting in favor of placing support staff at Grant.

MS. WRIGHT on Wednesday would not say if she had singled out the school closing from a list of cost-saving options that the board considered Monday.

However, she said, "Everybody has to make sacrifices. I'm considering everything on the list very seriously."

Rich Bireta, Rt. 3, who spoke against the closing during the study session on Monday, said the drop in state aid to the district has given the school board an excuse to do something it has wanted to do for a long time.

"If the issue is not really financial, they are violating their own policy, and they should be ashamed of their tactics," Bireta said.

Bireta referred to the board's community relations policy that says, in part, "It is the intention of the board to provide the means for furnishing full and accurate information, together with interpretation and explanation, in terms the public can understand."

Bireta said if the board votes Monday to close the school, it will not have adequately informed the public about the reasons for its decision. Bireta also said she feels that Woodlawn does not have adequate facilities to serve Grant students.

The executive board of the Woodlawn PTO voted Wednesday to recommend to the board that Grant not be closed, in large part because Grant is an important part of the community it serves.

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