With a $4 million budget deficit growing to $5 million, the likelihood of school closings seems to be increasing.
Lawrence school board members laid some of their cards on the table Monday as the district seeks to cut $5 million before next school year.
A majority of board members said they were willing to consider closing schools to make up the shortfall, which is mostly due to the state’s budget crisis.
That doesn’t make the option a sure thing, and board members still have plenty of work to do to reach a consensus. Other options at this point include furloughs for administrators, cutting funding for school programs and support positions, and even having fewer teaching jobs.
The public can comment on the budget situation at two forums: 7 p.m. Monday at Central Junior High, 1400 Mass., and 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at West Junior High, 2700 Harvard Road. Board members will continue
discussions at their March 8 meeting.
Here’s a look at what board members said during Monday’s discussion:
• Outlined a specific plan to save $1.5 million by closing two elementary schools, Sunset Hill and Wakarusa Valley, plus moving the East Heights Early Childhood program into New York School, while keeping Hillcrest and Cordley schools open.
• Supports $3 million more in savings by eliminating the district’s learning coaches, increasing the student-teacher ratio by one student across the district and implementing other school program and administrative cuts.
• Said board members all came up short of $5 million in their own scenarios so they would need to work together to find a consensus on cuts.
• Is comfortable finding alternatives to closing neighborhood elementary schools but will consider moving East Heights programs.
• Found $4.5 million in school program and administrative cuts, including raising the student-teacher ratio by two students per teacher, and cutting about 40 teaching positions (although about half come through teacher retirements).
• Says she wants to keep smaller class sizes and avoid elementary schools with only one class per grade.
• Wants to look at reorganizing certain elementary school buildings with East Heights included and closing Wakarusa Valley until the district grows to the south.
• Challenged the county and city to take over “the public health function for its youngest citizens” while looking at cutting school nurse positions.
• Wants to consider moving the East Heights programs into elementary schools and look at reconfiguring two elementary schools, one for younger children and another for the higher grades.
• Mentioned increasing the student-teacher ratio by two students as well, but wants to protect professional development for teachers.
• Wants the district to look at sharing principals among some schools and wants fewer cuts for guidance counselors, nurses and librarians.
• Says cutting costs would come down to either closing buildings for savings or keeping them open but reducing services to support students.
• Wants to protect neighborhood elementary schools.
• Showed a willingness to raise the student-teacher ratio by two students to save about $2 million.
• Wants the district to look deeper into cut suggestions from the community, like with textbook and student materials purchases.
• Asks for all options — including budget cut ideas from the community and even pay cuts for administrative and classified staff members — to be on the table.
• Says closing schools would be one of his last resorts, but he considers some services for students more important.