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Archive for Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Consultant: City growing, but district isn’t

September 27, 2005

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Lawrence's college-town demographics aren't helping the school district grow.

"You're seeing growth in the county, obviously. But you're not seeing it in the school district," said Preston Smith, a consultant with Business Information Services.

Meeting with school board members Monday, Smith noted that the city's median age, family size and number of owner-occupied homes are all below the state and national averages.

"This makes the district quite an anomaly," said Smith, noting that much of Lawrence's growth appears to be tied to university students and couples - retirees, for example - with few or no children living at home.

Lawrence, too, is "a lot more transient" than most cities its size, he said, noting that fewer than half the city's residents own or are buying their homes. The state average is 63.5 percent; the national average 60.2 percent.

School officials last week announced that while this year's district enrollment increased by 57 students, they were expecting an additional 280, resulting in a 223-student shortfall.

Because state-aid calculations are based on enrollment numbers, the district now expects to receive between $850,000 to $900,000 less than initially projected.

Smith said he was confident that for $14,400, Business Information Service could help the district hone its projections. Board members did not act on the bid.

A second company is expected to bid on the work.

The district's total enrollments stands at 10,003 students.

On other matters, the board:

¢ Revisited deliberations on the need for additional classrooms next year when 100 English as Second Language students move from Hillcrest School to Cordley School.

¢ Endorsed plans to spend $1 million for a new, districtwide phone system.

"The one we have now is shot," said Tom Bracciano, director of operations and facility planning. "The phones at Sunset, Prairie Park, Central and Lawrence High tend to crash a lot. When that happens, it's a major mess."

¢ Approved $100,000 for surface improvements to Hillcrest's wheelchair-accessible Ryan Gray Playground.

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