Put the brakes on busing costs and cut back on fees for optional classes.
The message Lawrence's school board gave to Supt. Randy Weseman on Monday night was pretty clear - they want to roll back some of the fees parents have to pay each year.
School board members told Weseman they want him to bring them some information soon on how much it would cost to erase some of the fees charged for optional classes such as photography or art.
And they want him to look at putting the brakes on fees for the school district's "pay-to-ride" busing program that costs some parents thousands of dollars a year.
"If we get figures on that and we get numbers we can plug into a budget process, I think those would be two good areas to start," said Sue Morgan, board president. "I think it's going to be partially a numbers game."
Weseman asked the board to consider beginning a process to roll back over a number of years about $1.2 million to $1.3 million now collected through fees.
Parents with several children in schools have complained to the board that they're socked with fees running up to several hundred dollars.
Weseman had said the board might be able to reduce several fees over the next few years, with the goal of eliminating all or most of them.
"I think we'll find out a lot," Weseman said. "We may discover we can do this faster than we think."
The following is a summary of anticipated fees for Lawrence public schools for 2006-2007: ¢ Textbook rental: $72 ¢ Instructional materials: $15 ¢ Technology fees: $10 ¢ Transportation activity trips: $15 ¢ Supplemental Fees (secondary only): $50 ¢ Course fees for classes such as art, photography, industrial arts: Varies. ¢ Athletics participation fees: $50 ¢ Parking fees: $10 ¢ Activity ticket: $25. ¢ Pay-to-ride: $240 per year.
The pay-to-ride plan currently costs $130 a semester or $260 per year per student, with no maximum cap on cost per family.
Weseman said the district could consider rolling that back next year to put a cap on how much a family would pay.
For example, he said one proposal might be to charge $100 per semester for the first child, then $50 per semester for the second child, with additional riders from the same family riding free. The total cost would then be $150 per family for a semester or $300 for a year.
Morgan and other board members told Weseman they were interested in eliminating fees that might be keeping some students from taking certain classes, such as photography or art.
Some parents can't afford the extra fees of those programs, so their students don't enroll, Weseman said.
Morgan said the district will work with parents who can't afford to pay for such programs.
However, Weseman said parents shouldn't be put into such a situation where they have to ask for a fee waiver because they can't afford it.
In other action, the board:
¢ Unanimously approved a contract with Lawrence's certified staff that provides 8 percent more funds set aside for teacher salaries.
- 6News video: School board consider helping parents with fees
- Superintendent wants to phase out most fees (09-10-06)
- 6News video: Board considering helping with high fees
- School board OKs tax increase (08-29-06)
- Property tax increase moves forward (08-15-06)
- Hitting the (check) books (08-13-06)
- District weighs higher taxes (08-01-06)
- City struggles to keep mill levy steady (07-18-06)
- County budget may result in marginal property tax increase in 2007 (07-18-06)
Under the agreement, which was also ratified by the Lawrence Education Assn., teachers would get an average 8 percent pay raise, with some getting more and some getting less.
Kelly Barker, the LEA's chief negotiator, said the contract was approved "overwhelmingly" by local teachers.
"I think it's a satisfying outcome for all of us," said Morgan. "It's well-deserved."
The school board also approved pay increases for classified staff and for administrators. Weseman said the total amount going to those groups was about 7 percent, with some getting more and some less.
The board also increased the amount per day it pays substitute teachers, from $82 to $90. The board also provided year-end stipends for those substituting more than 50 days a year.
¢ Heard a report from Lee Fuller, DLR Group, about the status of all the construction projects going on throughout the district funded by $54 million bond issue approved in April 2005. Fuller showed photos of construction in progress and explained that all of the projects were on schedule and under budget.
The projects include $31.9 million to raze and rebuild South Junior High School and improve Broken Arrow School; $16.7 million to add 35 junior high classrooms - six at Central, 16 at Southwest and 13 at West - modify or build gyms, and expand Southwest's cafeteria; $5.4 million to renovate locker rooms and science labs, build a new entrance to the east gym and add space for three science labs at Lawrence High School; and add labs for welding and other courses at Free State High School.
Fuller has a Web site that provides updated information on the 2005 bond issue at www.2005bondprogramconstruction.com/.
"It's refreshing to have projects that are in budget and on time," Morgan said.