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Archive for Tuesday, December 3, 2002

Riverside students divided as board plans for closing

December 3, 2002

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Riverside School will become a house divided.

The Lawrence school board voted 6-1 on Monday to give preliminary approval to the split of Riverside's students between Deerfield and Pinckney schools.

The action is a key detail of the plan to shut down Riverside, 601 N. Iowa, at the end of this school year to save money. The closure is not related to a proposed $59 million bond issue scheduled to go before voters in April.

Fifty-three students living south of Interstate 70 will attend Pinckney, 810 W. Sixth St. Forty-eight children residing north of the interstate will go to the district's largest elementary school, Deerfield, at 101 Lawrence Ave. Nine transfer students at Riverside must apply elsewhere.

Riverside parents at the meeting repeated objections to the consolidation.

"We strongly oppose the closing of our school and are disappointed with the board's decision to do so," said Shawn Fowler, who has a third-grade daughter at Riverside.

Fowler endorsed sending children north of the highway to Deerfield.

The board declined a suggestion to transfer all Riverside's students to the same school.

"I'm really sympathetic to that desire," said board member Austin Turney. However, he said, that wouldn't make the most efficient use of school classroom space.

The board also wants to close East Heights and Centennial schools. Those students would be transferred as a school group to New York and Cordley schools, if voters approve the upcoming bond issue.

The board rejected member Sue Morgan's idea of trimming Deerfield's enrollment by transferring 88 students from there to Langston Hughes School, which is not yet full.

Board members Mary Loveland and Leni Salkind said jolting Deerfield families with a boundary change without consulting them would be a mistake.

"It's like hitting them cold," Salkind said.

While giving first-round approval for boundary changes that will close Riverside, the board also asked district administrators to write rules for extending the Dec. 1 deadline for Riverside, Deerfield and Pinckney students to request a school transfer.

In addition, the possibility of allowing Riverside's fifth-graders to attend sixth grade with their friends will be explored.

"I think that's an important consideration," Supt. Randy Weseman said.

Final action on the Riverside boundary change will be in January. Closing the school is expected to result in a reduction of the equivalent of six full-time teaching jobs.

Board member Jack Davidson was the only "no" vote, reflecting his opposition to closing elementary schools.

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