Archive for Wednesday, January 6, 2010

As closure fears circulate, New York patrons rally around their school

Students leave New York School on Tuesday. Lawrence Superintendent Rick Doll joined a meeting of the school’s site council Tuesday night, where concerned patrons and neighbors urged him not to close any schools to alleviate budget constraints.

Students leave New York School on Tuesday. Lawrence Superintendent Rick Doll joined a meeting of the school’s site council Tuesday night, where concerned patrons and neighbors urged him not to close any schools to alleviate budget constraints.

January 6, 2010


Parents speak out against closing school

Lawrence parents were out in force to speak out about the idea of closing schools to save money. Closing one elementary school could save the city as much as $500,000. Enlarge video

New York School has the smallest enrollment in the Lawrence school district. But Monday night, during a regularly scheduled site council meeting, parents and east Lawrence community members filled the school’s library to standing-room-only capacity to make sure school leaders know how they feel about their neighborhood school.

“It’s just not New York that we don’t want to close. We don’t want to close any school,” New York PTO President Nicole Allensworth said. “We’re a community over here.”

Superintendent Rick Doll was on hand to present the school board’s goals for the near future to the school’s site council, but the question-and-answer session turned to potential school closings.

“This is where it gets ugly,” Doll said. “You’re not going to get to $4 million by trimming around the edges.”

School board President Scott Morgan and member Vanessa Sanburn were also on hand to hear the community’s concerns.

“The message I got, which I knew, but I think it always helps to hear, is just what a strong community New York Elementary has,” Morgan said. “Beyond the people that have kids here, this is a neighborhood that cares very deeply about the school.”

The district needs to cut another $3 million to make up budget shortfalls from the state for this school year, and faces a $4 million deficit heading into the 2010-11 school year. Doll said the two ways to get big chunks of money are raising class sizes and closing schools.

“The only reason west side schools aren’t being talked about is because they are full,” Doll said.

Doll said the district could save anywhere from $400,000 to $600,000 by closing one school.

New York School has about 130 students and Doll said it costs $2,000 more to educate one student compared with other elementary schools in the district.

But parents and neighborhood members don’t want the board to give up on them.

“It’s great that we have the community’s support,” Allensworth said. “Just as a small school, we know that we made a difference being here.”

The board will have a study session Monday before its regular meeting to get more information on potential budget cuts.


Richard Heckler 8 years, 3 months ago

Money is tight they say. USD 497 knows the legislature well. The legislature it seems dislikes public schools and perhaps so do some USD 497 members.

They say USD 497 has maxed out its' taxing authority.

If money is so tight I am sure taxpayers are wondering why $16.5 million worth building maintenance was placed on the back burner in favor of a $20 million sports extravaganza! This is not an indication of responsible tax dollar management. Money applied to the sports facilities could have been applied to maintaining our valuable existing resources aka school buildings.

We were through this closing of schools not so long ago when Scott Morgan was leading the charge. He was fired for wanting to do this. It seems to me that the community said it was okay to keep New York school open even with smaller enrollment.

Smaller classes are known to produce desired results. Altering the boundaries a little could increase New York school enrollment.

Parents from other schools could enroll their children in New York School. This neighborhood school is home to college educated parents with bright children.

Deerfield is crowded. Why not offer some parents the choice of bringing their kids over to New York school? This neighborhood school is home to college educated parents with bright children.

New York school is not in a rough neighborhood. The neighborhood is home to beautiful old style homes.

The school is absolutely beautiful and received some high dollar improvements not so long ago. How does it make dollars and sense to close such a school that is paid for after spending some deserved tax dollars to make it ever more valuable to the school district?

It's time for all neighborhood schools to help each other out and stick together. Enroll your kids in New York school soon.

been_there 8 years, 3 months ago

Why not move the preschool program at East Heights over to New York school and share the building with them? Then sell the East Heights building. Does a preschool program need a whole building to itself? Remember the school district pays for that program and building too plus a principal for it. Combining them would then only require one principal and one building instead of two.

average 8 years, 3 months ago

According to the state figures (, if the reporter is reading), New York school had 284 students just last year. If there are 130 now, there has to be some explanation. I honestly haven't heard it yet. A better article might at least allude to it, if it has been reported on before. Was there some sudden catastrophe in East Lawrence I missed, has the school been targeted, or is there some other explanation?

KSManimal 8 years, 3 months ago

While touching that there is so much community support for this neighborhood school, it isn't about what the community wants. It's about the fact that the folks under the big green dome have neglected their constitutional obligation to fund public schools.

Not only have they cut funding by millions in one year, but they aren't even sending the money they promise to send. Payments to public schools have been delayed for three months in a row.

Be sure to aim your wrath where it belongs.....Topeka. Our local BOE/administration is only doing what they must do - they can't spend dollars they don't have.

ps - "larger class sizes" is code for "teacher layoffs". Why not come right out and say that?

Bobbi Walls 8 years, 3 months ago

been there, yes the whole school at East Heights should be used as a preschool. They have multiple classrooms, and they utilize the whole building. Personally I don't think any schools should close, but if they do, then it should be the schools with the lowest enrollments. And also East Heights operates under seperate funding not provided in whole by the school district.

SettingTheRecordStraight 8 years, 3 months ago

"We don’t want to close any school." -Nicole Allensworth

"no schools should be shut down end of story." -mommaeffortx2

Really? Do these folks think that defiant turfism is going to solve the state's budget crisis?

been_there 8 years, 3 months ago

How many kids are in the preschool program at East Heights? I think they only go for morning or afternoon, so you would have to break it down. If they are the ones listed on the enrollment chart it would be "IEP'd and 4yr old at risk" which would be a total of 168 which would mean 84 in the morning and 84 in the afternoon. They may utilize the whole building, but do they need the whole building? If someone has other knowledge of the numbers, please post. But it sounds to me as if there is more than enough room at New York since they previously had 284 students.

lori 8 years, 3 months ago

Some of those extra positions at New York are grant positions specific to the school that could be lost if schools are combined, as they are based on ses and minority demographics.

Nonetheless, the financial reality is that the budget needs to be cut. We New York parents understand this. Teachers and staff will be cut. Dr. Doll himself stated that it would save the district 1 million to increase class size by one student. Why not increase class size by 2 students and then redistrict to increase class sizes/section numbers in a more equitable manner at the schools that are not full (which again, according to Dr. Doll includes all elementary schools east of Sunset Hill)?

Closing a school will save, according to Dr. Doll, somewhere between 300-500K. The school district would still be responsible for maintaining the building unless it could be sold--and then the money goes into capital outlay, not the general fund. Upping class sizes by two students per class and redrawing school boundaries would save 2 million. To get that equivalent, the school district would have to close 4 or more schools.

It costs more per student at NY because the school is underutilized by the district. Utilizing the school to its fullest extent would make better economic sense in the short term AND long term rather than closing it because of an ultimately temporary budget crisis.

KSManimal was correct--this is a Topeka problem. Lobby your legislators and the Education Budget Committees. They need to free up the constraints in spending that are placed on school districts. Specifically, individual school districts should have the right to use capital outlay funds (of which we apparently have an abundance, since we were able to build two new stadiums this year) for the general fund, including paying salaries and providing for curriculum supplies, particularly in times of budget crisis. As is, the state does not allow school districts to do this. If they would, this would free up a significant amount of money for each school district and could drastically change the need to make cuts within the district.

kugrad 8 years, 3 months ago

There is some gross misinformation in the above posts.

  1. New York enrollment did NOT decline from 284 to 130 students. I has stayed the same at about 130-140 students for a number of years. I don't know where you heard there was a decline, but it is just wrong.

  2. There are NOT 47 adults working at New York school. There are 2 title teachers, a custodian, a food service employee, a principal, secretary, one SPED teacher, and 8 classroom teachers. Those are the full time employees. Then there are a few people who come by part time, such as social workers, counselors, speech/ot/pt etc. depending on how many kids with IEPs are in the building in a given year. Once again, the info about 47 adults is just flat out wrong.

Christine Pennewell Davis 8 years, 3 months ago

east hieghts goes all day. And I stand by what I said no school should shut down.

lori 8 years, 3 months ago

KU grad is correct, a significant portion of those supposed 47 adults are part time positions that rotate among several schools. A smaller portion are positions that are specific to the school due to grants that are based for the most part on SES and minority demographics. There are not 47 full time adult positions in that school, for sure.

angus2010 8 years, 3 months ago

Well all those ghetto kids are performing at or above the state guidelines. As an employee of the district I am in and out of a lot of schools and New York, Central, Cordley, have outstanding kids.

sherlock 8 years, 3 months ago

to justanother troll:
wow what a one-sided opinion! Talk about discrimination!

rivercitymom 8 years, 3 months ago


What makes New York School more of a neighborhood school than Deerfield? Why should the solution be to move Deerfield kids over to New York, away from THEIR neighborhood school?

School closings are incredibly painful. Really almost unimaginable to those who haven't been through one. But KSManimal is right, aim our wrath at Topeka, NOT USD 497 board members.

Still, maybe save a little wrath for USD 497 administrators, of which there are far too many and with pretty fat salaries, too. The rest of us live in Lawrence and work for peanuts, because we've opted to raise families here in this paradise. I don't believe for a minute that USD 497 will ever have trouble filing their top jobs without paying over-the-top salaries.

braverthanu 8 years, 3 months ago

Schools should be closed period. Lawrence elementary schools represent western kansas...they need to consolidate. And I really don't care what the parents think. Honestly, these are the same parents that voted for the congress we have in Kansas, so deal with it. You got us here.

KSManimal 8 years, 3 months ago

"Honestly, these are the same parents that voted for the congress we have in Kansas, so deal with it. You got us here."

Actually, not true. If you look at the Lawrence delegation compared to the legislature'll see it isn't Lawrence voters who put these problem(s) in place.

Kyle Chandler 8 years, 3 months ago

We should be lobbying to create programs like a Medical Marijuana Program to be taxed JUST for the public schools. This would also relieve some health care expenditures the state has to cover as well. Like those $100 a day medications that Terminally Ill patients need to maintain a zombie like state.

Of course most people around here cant even think of it as a medicine yet, even though its walked with mankind down through the centuries and used for a variety of purposes....its time all the uptight Kansas Fox News people woke up! Many other states are doing this with HUGE success. We can too.

Also, taking it out of the black market removes a significant degree of power from dealers and dissolves the ridiculous 'gateway drug' propaganda. Ask any dealer how he feels about state sanctioned medical pot....they dont want it. hmmm so

Schools and Teachers would get paid what they should , Patients would get access to natural, scientifically proven medicine as prescribed (Drug companies suffer as they should), and drug dealers have a more difficult time exploiting/exposing kids to actual narcotics that ARE NOT medicines in ANY fashion because marijuana has been removed from their black market.

Oh and heaven forbid, it would also create a few jobs and stimulate the local economy.

But thats just crazy talk isnt it? Lets just continue arguing ove whos a Remocrat or whos a Depublican...that gets us really far doesnt it? No it doesnt.


Get educated Kansas....or be left behind.

four11 8 years, 3 months ago

So true KSManimal!

Let's stop wasting time with blame-- let's figure out how we can solve this Lawrence style! We are a unique town-do we want to be like other cities with factory schools? I love this town, I love our school, --Let's appeal to the State Legislature to allow UD497 to use money from other funds to go towards the operation fund so that we don't have to close schools lay off teachers and displace students!! Email your state senators now!

Bobbi Walls 8 years, 3 months ago

been there, East Heights offers both a part time and a full time program.. my daughter goes from 7:45-3 on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday... she goes from 7:45-12 on Wednesday. I think there are only 2 classes that are part time.

agnes17 8 years, 3 months ago

Please make sure you attend the Jan. 11 School Board and study session. The work session begins at 4:00 and the regular meeting begins at 7:00. Procedurally, the public cannot speak during the study session, but can (and should) speak at the 7:00 meeting.

kugrad 8 years, 3 months ago

"braverthanu" (Anonymous) ingnorantly writes,

"Schools should be closed period. Lawrence elementary schools represent western kansas…they need to consolidate." The above statement makes absolutely no sense at all. BTW, consolidation is recommended for western KS because their districts are small, unlike Lawrence.

Babbling on, braverthanu says "And I really don't care what the parents think. Honestly, these are the same parents that voted for the congress we have in Kansas, so deal with it. You got us there."

So people in East Lawrence, a traditionally Democratic stronghold, elected the Republicans from other counties that led the charge to reduce taxation beyond the level the State needed to function?  The Lawrence delegation is pro-education, with the exception of the North Lawrence delegation, but they are relative newcomers who didn't really get us where we are today.

As for "justanothertroll," obviously he didn't attend New York Elementary, or he wouldn't be such an ignorant bigot.

dkbrown2006 8 years, 3 months ago

Hey Angus.. Why do they have to be ghetto kids? Why cant they just be kids? Since we need to label the kids, what kind of kid were you? Forgive me just asking?

Richard Heckler 8 years, 3 months ago

I did not say nor imply that New York is more of a neighborhood school than Deerfield. What I was suggesting is that if some parents felt like moving their children into a smaller class size while at the same time increasing the New York population why not?

This invitation can apply to any family in Lawrence. And/or alter the boundry lines some what. Whatever it takes.

Paid for school buildings are better for the taxpayers. Lets's figure out how to keep using OUR existing resources.

Joe Hyde 8 years, 3 months ago

I like merrill's ideas on this. Re-districting of school boundaries is something that, if done regularly and done on a "numerical as-needed" basis, would spread the town's overall K-12 student population as evenly as possible among our existing school buildings. This even distribution in turn would better help each of our schools realize the ideal teacher/student ratio in every classroom.

Point being, a good teacher is a good teacher, no matter which school he or she works in.

anon1958 8 years, 3 months ago

Need more money for education? End expensive after school sports programs like football and basketball that mostly just cater to the interests of adults. There really is no compelling need for expensive after school sports programs other than for their entertainment value. Physical education programs should receive the same attention as math, reading, sciences, music, arts, humanities etc; not more.

Intramural sports are a perfectly good way to organize friendly and healthy competitive sport events and are more likely to encourage participation from a wider variety of students.

ohgeeze 8 years, 3 months ago

I know people are targeting New York...but in reality what about Cordley? It is a great school, don't get me wrong. The staff and kids are wonderful...but it needs something like .5 million dollars worth of renovations. The building is almost 100 years old...

Like Doll said, this is not something they can just "trim the edges". There has to be an additional 3 million cut THIS And an additional 4 million needs to be cut for next year. And even though it is painful, a school has to close. Maybe two. Non tenured teachers will be laid off. This is going to happen...this year. We are not given any other choice.

I'm one of those people who are going to be faced with losing their job here in a month and a half, and there is nothing anyone can do about it.

Stephen Roberts 8 years, 3 months ago

I have been through the previous school closings before and I was disappointed with the adults. All of the adults spent time explaining why their school should not be closed and that is ok but none of them made any suggestions to help reduce costs or increase income.

Why hasn't the school board changed any boundaries within the last four years?? Eventhough I bought a house and the elementary school was XXX, there is a chance that the boundary would change. Maybe the district could look at moving some of the Old West Lawrence children??

School Fees- A few years ago the school board decided to create a technology fee to fund upgrades for technology. Every year we are paying this fee and I doubt if it would ever go away.

Has the district looked at how many students transfer from their home school, with execption of ESL students?? Maybe there should be a transfer fee for those students?? Just a thought.

A larger issue that is being ignored is special education students. From what I saw a few years ago, Lawrence has more special education students than the state average. Special education students include gifted students. Even though the state and federal government pay for some of the services, the costs still add up.

Even though it is easist to blame the legislature for funding, the district, school board, and community need to also take the blame for the costs associated with running the schools. Keeping the number students low in a classroom may improve education, it still costs more because you need more teachers and support staff.

Also, the LEA is also to blame because they want more money for less work. Maybe the LEA should allow the district to eliminate the wednesday early dismassal and that could save money.

Remember JOCO taxpayers voted to increase their sales tax for fund schools while Lawrence choose to increase their sales tax for arts, roads, and the T.

Maddy Griffin 8 years, 3 months ago

If they close New York, that will only leave Kennedy and Prairie Park. Those two schools are pretty close to each other but pretty far away from most of the East side. I think Merill has the right idea about re-districting.

workinghard 8 years, 3 months ago

You should look at the boundaries for Hillcrest school, it weaves all over obviously in an attempt to get enough students to keep it open. Sunset school is only a few blocks away. Seems they could do the same for New York. Why isn't Hillcrest considered since it could be easily worked into the other school areas, obviously strings are being pulled. Pickney, Cordley, and New York are part of Lawrence history. I thought Lawrence was trying to preserve it's history. We will try to preserve another train depot, when we have already done that, but we will let a large part of east Lawrence history go.Neighborhood schools are an asset. We don't want more Walmart type stores, but Walmart schools are just fine. I know people who have tried to transfer to Cordley but were turned down and had to go an overcrowded school they didn't like. Are transfers to less crowded schools denied to keep enrollment up at schools the district wants to keep numbers up at?

weeslicket 8 years, 3 months ago

i'll try a 2nd time

yes. a lot going on here.

here's a bit that some of us may have missed: “The only reason west side schools aren’t being talked about is because they are full,” Doll said

true. but, it is also true that the east side schools are also full. it's just that the eastside schools (including woodlawn and wakarusa valley) are not large schools. so, they are not as efficient as the larger west side schools. ok. then how does a district provide for equity on this?

keep in mind: in kansas, we always seem to hold harmless investments in property.
for example: as a district, we have plenty of money to spend on infrastructure like 4 athletic fields, and their structures, and for the purchase of real estate for furture school development.

as long as we have the ability to invest in these kinds of infrastructures, wouldn't it be more wise to invest these same monies in 2 or 3 larger, quality, even eye-popping schools in middle and east lawrence?

ohgeeze 8 years, 3 months ago

Hillcrest is safe because it is an ELL school...the disctrict has spent money on staff trainging, so they are less likely to be messed with. Same with the other ELL schools

pbr 8 years, 3 months ago

There are students that are bussed to Central Junior High that are in the Deerfield school area. Why not have the elementary students that are in that particular boundry to be bussed to CJHS attend New York Elementary? No one wants their child to attend a school out of their neighborhood, but since these children will attend Central anyway it makes sense.

My children attended New York. It is a wonderful school with great teachers and a wonderful sense of community. My children are successful students, and I have to attribute much of this to the education that they received at New York. Lets make keeping New York a viable option. Surely with some creative ideas New York Elementary could continue to exist.

LadyJ 8 years, 3 months ago

I assume ELL school means english as a second language school which Cordley is also I believe. Yet it seems some think it is being considered for closing. justanothertroll -- interesting comment.

Stephen Roberts 8 years, 3 months ago

PBR- You are right there are student from Deerfield school that attend Central. So it would be ok to bus them pass Deerfield and past Pinckney to attend New York?? Does that make sense?? Just to increase the number of students.

The district needs to redraw the boundaries period. Why do students who live North of 6th street that attend Pincnkey go to West up to I-70? Students who live north of I-70 that go to Deerfield go to Central?? The boundaries are the issues and too many people get to emotional about changing schools.

LadyJ 8 years, 3 months ago

justanothertroll--Now that makes more sense to me from a personal experience in the past.

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