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Archive for Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Board to close two schools

East Heights, Centennial fall victim to budget cuts

April 15, 2003

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Lawrence school board members decided Monday to eliminate the opportunity for future generations of children to attend two beloved elementary schools.

Unless at least three members of the board have a change of heart, East Heights and Centennial schools will be no more when the academic year ends May 23. They would join Riverside School, which the board previously agreed to close at the end of this year.

Austin Turney, the board's vice president, said his vote for consolidation was the saddest of his tenure on the board.

"No one regrets that change more than I do," he said.

Tears were shed on both sides of the issue.

This 6-1 preliminary vote on closures will be followed by final action scheduled for May 12. Voting for a resolution to change boundaries in a way that squeezed out East Heights and Centennial were Turney, Scott Morgan, Linda Robinson, Leni Salkind, Sue Morgan and Mary Loveland.

This majority offered academic and financial reasons for supporting consolidation.

Board member Jack Davidson stood alone against the closures. He said the defeat April 1 of the district's $59 million bond that included plans to close East Heights and Centennial sent a clear message that the community didn't want to shut down more elementary buildings.

"The board and the administration simply does not want to listen to what the people who vote say and have said," Davidson said. "This board and this administration ... I wonder if they even care."

Parents and educators on both sides of the issue offered intense, emotional testimony before the vote.

Kirsten Roussel, the parent of an East Heights third-grader, said the board was jeopardizing the academic fate of many at-risk children in the district by consolidating the district's smallest elementary schools.

"Closing this school (East Heights) is putting these students in even further risk," she said.

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