Board opts for plan to close Centennial

Centennial School went down, and the Lawrence school board’s bond-issue wish list went up.

A majority of the board agreed Monday night that it made more sense to keep centrally located and historically relevant Cordley School open instead of the nearby Centennial building at 2145 La.

Advocates for both schools were given 10 minutes to state their case against consolidation.

“It’s very difficult to be here facing off with another school,” said Joe Casad, who has a daughter at Cordley, 1837 Vt.

In the end, his children’s school prevailed. Five of seven board members  including Cordley alumnus Austin Turney  said the opportunity to move Centennial’s students into Cordley after a multimillion-dollar expansion project was the best choice.

“We have to make a decision even though none of us really want to close any of our established schools,” Turney said.

Board member Linda Robinson said she would side with the majority on choosing between the two schools. Only one board member, Jack Davidson, said he opposed closing schools.

Meanwhile, the board’s discussion of other elements of the facilities overhaul led to an increase in the tentative cost of a bond issue to $62 million. The board had earlier expressed interest in keeping the school construction tax package near $50 million.

“That’s with the understanding that it’s going to go down,” said Scott Morgan, board president. “We need feedback from the community on priorities.”

About 100 people jammed into the board’s chamber for the meeting on facilities.

The board will gather more reaction to its work on a 20-year facilities master plan at 6 p.m. Wednesday in district headquarters, 110 McDonald Drive. It’s the first of six meetings scheduled through Nov. 14.

“Mainly we’re there to listen,” Morgan said. “I want it to remain a vehicle for public comment, not a vehicle for board presentation.”

Supt. Randy Weseman will run the sessions. The DLR Group consulting firm’s staff will present technical information on facilities issues. At least two board members will be at each session to answer questions. The floor will be open for public comment.

Still in the bond-issue mix are a new South Junior High School, expanded Lawrence Alternative High School, elimination of classroom portables throughout the district and major renovation of Cordley and New York schools and Lawrence High School.

Centennial joins East Heights and Riverside schools on the board’s consolidation list.

Only East Heights is being considered for an alternative use at this time, with the board studying the possibility of relocating all early-childhood programs there.

The board isn’t expected to present voters with a bond issue until 2003, perhaps in April.