Archive for Friday, December 25, 2009

Parents respond to possibility of school closures

Group from Cordley, New York schools meets to discuss options

December 25, 2009


Facing millions of dollars worth of state revenue shortfalls, Lawrence school board members are considering everything when it comes to making up the deficit.

That includes the possibility of closing some elementary schools.

While board members haven’t discussed whether they want to venture down that route or what schools could be up for closure, parents at two east Lawrence schools aren’t waiting for that to happen.

The group Save Cordley has formed, and parents from Cordley and New York schools met Saturday to talk about the future of their children’s schools.

“We’re talking about downtown neighborhoods that are very vulnerable,” Cordley parent Sharon Ashworth said. “If the schools go, so do the families.”

The district is facing a midyear cut of $3 million. Two-thirds of that deficit will be made up using savings and carryover cash funds. But the district will probably start the 2010-11 school year $4 million in the hole.

“We’re not looking to close troubled schools, which would make it a lot easier,” school board President Scott Morgan said. “We’re just looking for money.”

The board will begin discussions on how to make up the shortfalls starting Jan. 11. While it’s unclear whether it will look at closing schools, Ashworth and other parents don’t want to take any chances.

“Everybody knows that times are tight and things need to go. We fully understand that,” Ashworth said. “We hope to work with the board to find ways to deal with the crisis.”

Cordley School was on the short list a few years ago, but the board decided to close Centennial School instead.

“Centennial ended up losing primarily because it was closer to Broken Arrow and Schwegler,” said Morgan, who was on the board that made the decision. “We were trying to spread them out more.”

Superintendent Rick Doll said there’s no short list of schools up for potential closure.

“The board hasn’t even discussed whether they’re going to close anything,” Doll said.

But Morgan said he isn’t surprised that Cordley and New York parents have mobilized.

“All of the schools that are smaller know they’re potentially at risk if we’re going to look at school closings,” Morgan said. “Last time we went through it, schools with one-section grades tend to get on the list.”

Parents are hoping that closing schools won’t be the way the board decides to make up the funding shortfall.

“One thing we do know is the budget crisis is temporary,” Ashworth said. “But closing a school is permanent.”


LogicMan 8 years, 4 months ago

“But closing a school is permanent.”

No -- school buildings can be shut and reopened later, as long as they aren't sold and are properly mothballed or leased-out.

At least temporary consolidation is a viable solution during this national fiscal crisis.

Matt Needham 8 years, 4 months ago

"No — school buildings can be shut and reopened later..."

Once it's taken out of the money system it's out for good. They occasionally reopen as office space, private schools, day cares, etc.... Never again as public schools. Not in an anti-education state like Kansas.

conservative 8 years, 4 months ago

We have too many small schools in lawrence and that leads to a much higher cost of education. Every small school has a principal, office staff, janitorial staff, and utilities. Much of which wouldn't be needed if they consolidated. I know 'neighborhood schools' are the preference for many but they just aren't economically smart. In addition to the overhead employees who are only at the school the smaller schools share the support workers who end up covering multiple schools and therefore spend a large portion of their day driving between schools instead of helping children.

been_there 8 years, 4 months ago

Sunset Hill and Hillcrest are very close together. If you look at the school boundary map, Hillcrest kind of weaves through the district. Why is it not consolidated into the other schools?

Nonsense 8 years, 4 months ago

The good doctor has made his intentions clear. He wants a mega school on the east side closing all the grade schools and eventually central. He is on record saying that this district has too many grade schools. His priorities are money, not neighbohoods or the suvival of downtown.

honestone 8 years, 4 months ago

Shutting down the east side is a plan of the city/school management. As long as the east side is viable it further hampers growth on the west side. Loveland has been trying to shut down the east side schools for all the years she has been on the board.

Stephen Roberts 8 years, 4 months ago

Cordley was only saved last time because Randy wanted to use Centenial for athletic fields and saving Cordley would shut up Austin Turney.

If the parents are real;ly serious in saving Cordley, they need to come up with ways the district to save money. It would be great for them to put some of their money on the table. The last time Cordley was on the list, the group only talked about how great the school is but they didn't presnet any ideas to save money (from the meetings I was present). These parents need to know that smaller schools costs more money on a per pupil basis.

been_there 8 years, 4 months ago

Just looked at the enrollment numbers, did not realize New York only has 135 students, wow.

Hop2It 8 years, 4 months ago

"Just looked at the enrollment numbers, did not realize New York only has 135 students, wow."

Since this is about saving money, I would be very interested in seeing a cost per child number for all the schools. There are some schools that have single section grades and some as many as 4. In a perfect world it be nice if we all could go to a little a little neighborhood school, but...

workinghard 8 years, 4 months ago

Four years ago a state funded program started operating out of a store front at The Malls for students whose class graduated without them. In four years 80 students have graduated, that is 20 a year. How much is the operating cost and if it is in partnership with the school district why are we paying to rent a storefront? The GED program operates out of LHS, so why can't this be run out of Centennial with the virtual school? If they didn't want to go to school when they had a chance, they should get a GED or finish for credit through private sources. I would like to see the cost per student for those 80 students for 4 yrs.

I also remember that at one time the Principal at Woodlawn also had to be the Principal of Grant school when it existed. Is it an option for New York school? Does the East Heights Early Learning school need it's own Principal for so few students?

Maxandwillie 8 years, 4 months ago

"Why aren't school board members and administrators being 'burned at the stake' for spending millions for sports complexes, utilized by only a handful of students, while the rest of their system decays? What kind of culture in a community like Lawrence would have allowed this criminal travesty?"

different money.

Hudson Luce 8 years, 4 months ago

When 8 percent of the registered voters show up to vote in an election, as happened in East Lawrence last spring, the City Commission and School Board feels safe in continuing to ignore the needs of the people who live there. If East Lawrence wants attention, then East Lawrence has to get organized, show up at school board meetings and city commission meetings en masse, and get people elected to those bodies. It might also help if the Lawrence City Commission were elected from districts instead of all at-large, but that's not going to come without a fight. The same goes for North Lawrence.

broddie 8 years, 4 months ago

sorry, but how much did the football field cost? Oh, that's right. It was from a "different pot of money." Basically a little sweetheart deal from the legislature that needs to be investigated by the Attorney General to see who profited with this little piece of pork-barrel legislation.

Remember, the school district took out a 14 Million LOAN which they will be paying for 40 years. The total cost will be in excess of 140 Million. Meanwhile, they can't teach students using facilities that already exist and don't cost anything.

Sports should be aggressively de-funded. Let the parents volunteer to coach--like Little League or Hobbit Soccer. The new stadium is an eyesore that robbed us of a running track and lighted tennis courts--facilities that served all Lawrence, not just an elite few.

Please vote all current board members out next election. Especially Loveland, the queen of school closings and the patron saint of high salaries for good-ol-boy bureaucrats like Weisman.

KSManimal 8 years, 4 months ago

I hope folks who are concerned about schools closing will direct their efforts to the source of the problem - about 25 miles west of Lawrence...under that big green dome.

workinghard 8 years, 4 months ago

"Please vote all current board members out next election. Especially Loveland"

Could not agree more, and then keep her out once and for all.

average 8 years, 4 months ago

"Just looked at the enrollment numbers, did not realize New York only has 135 students, wow."

It had 284 last year (280 and 285 the two before that). The lines didn't change. What happened?

GardenMomma 8 years, 4 months ago


"Cordley school serves 217 students in grades K-6. Beginning in Fall 2007, the school offers a full-day kindergarten program. As a cluster site, Cordley provides English as a Second Language services to English Language Learners."

"Established in 1869, New York Elementary School serves 142 students in grades K-6. ... Beginning in Fall 2007, New York offers a full-day kindergarten program."

Both schools offer after-school care in the form of Boys & Girls Clubs. To close these schools down is going to affect a lot more than just dollars for the school district. I can see lots of parents who utilize both the full day kindergartens and the after-school programs being adversely affected.

ohgeeze 8 years, 4 months ago

“The board hasn’t even discussed whether they’re going to close anything,” Doll said."

Not true...I sat in on a meeting with him last Monday and he said school closings was not a "possibility but a probability". That's one of the big things they are discussing, no use trying to avoid the subject.

And even though he said there was no "short list" he said the things he will take into account are age of the building and upkeep (like Cordley), number of students (Wakarusa and New York), but would also look at keeping schools that had already made the move to being an ELL site since those staff members have already been through courses.

He did say that someday he would like to close those schools anyway and open a super elementary on the east side of town...should be interesting...

ecorunning 8 years, 4 months ago

In September, the LJWorld ran a story with a graph that showed Cordley had 359 students. According to the reported numbers, Cordley also had the second highest jump in enrollment for elementary schools. Someone better ask Austin Turney for help - again.

MIke Mallory 8 years, 4 months ago

quit complaining, lets raise local taxes

Richard Heckler 8 years, 3 months ago


Keep this in mind. Our elementary schools need $16.5 million in maintenance. School buildings should be receiving ongoing maintenance to prevent an expensive backlog. The school board and then Supt. Weseman knew of this need when athletics took front and center.

Instead of blowing $20 million on athletic facilities they could have spent that money on building maintenance.

Keep the following in mind:

*School Maintenance

The problem as I see it our school board is taking direction from the Chamber of Commerce which evermore obvious by the recent $22,000 plus per acre land purchase they do not need.

Developers should be setting aside land for public schools. Developers know that schools promote their projects AND they are the ones creating the need.

Richard Heckler 8 years, 3 months ago

These schools are worth a ton to USD 497 and local taxpayers because they are paid for.

The gym at New York school is new so why shut down a school that was recently a receiver of a fair chunk of taxpayer dollars?

The problem with some USD 497 schools is that they have become victims of neglect! A fiscal irresponsible action.

Richard Heckler 8 years, 3 months ago

The USD 497 headquarters aka “milk barn” should placed on the market. USD 497 taxpayers do NOT need a luxury headquarters for our school district.

This building was beyond our means when the purchase was made. It is still beyond our means. This is not Hollywood.

This building was purchased when budget crunch problems began to surface. I say sell it. Neighborhood schools and maintaining existing buildings is far more important.

*School Maintenance

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