Lawrence is the last district in the state of Kansas with junior highs, but that might be up for discussion soon.
Lawrence public schools are configured with kindergarten through sixth grade in elementary schools, seventh- through ninth-graders in junior high, and grades 10 through 12 in the district’s two high schools.
“We like to view ourselves as very liberal in some ways, but we are very traditional,” said school board President Scott Morgan. “Everyone else has gone to some kind of four-year high school.”
A goal-setting session for the board and Superintendent Rick Doll is planned for August. Morgan wants to make sure a school configuration discussion is on the agenda.
“There’s a lot of interest on the board looking into very seriously moving ninth-graders to high school,” he said.
While Doll can’t predict what the board will want to set as goals, he said if they want to look at school configuration, the administration can make the changes.
“The basis of the decision should be what’s best for kids,” Doll said. “If we decide and the school board decides that a reconfiguration is best for kids, then we can make it happen. There’s no right or wrong way to configure schools.”
Morgan said the board tried to broach the topic of changing the school grade lineup a few years ago.
“The community got pretty upset about it,” he said. “All I know is every other school district in Kansas has done this and the world continues to rotate.”
But there are a lot of questions to answer: Would there be enough room in the high schools for four grades? Would boundaries have to change? What about school consolidation?
“If we have many more years like we are having now, frankly, all bets are off,” said Morgan. “We’re going to look at just the most efficient way we can to deliver it (education).”
Space isn’t as much of an issue at the junior high level because sixth-graders would simply replace ninth-graders, who would be moving into the high schools to make them 9-12 buildings.
“Lawrence High used to have over 2,000 kids back in the peak of the baby boom,” Morgan said. “We now have maybe 1,200. It’s different how we do things now between special education and a lot of the other smaller classrooms we do.”
Doll noted that students wouldn’t be the only ones moving; some teachers would have to switch locations as well.
“Some staff would move from middle to high. There’d be some staff that would move from elementary to middle,” said Doll.
But Morgan said continuing budget troubles could lead to major alterations.
“If the economy hasn’t turned around significantly for revenues to come up, we really are going to be looking at some dramatic changes just so that we can continue to provide the kind of education Lawrence expects,” he said.
The district has 15 elementary schools, four junior highs and two high schools.