Archive for Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Group: More than education, schools offer community

Cari Davis and her son Andre, 3, clean a classroom table Monday at New York School on a parent/student work day to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Davis is a fourth-grade teacher at Pinckney School but lives in the New York School neighborhood. “I hope Andre will be able to go to school here,” she said Monday.

Cari Davis and her son Andre, 3, clean a classroom table Monday at New York School on a parent/student work day to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Davis is a fourth-grade teacher at Pinckney School but lives in the New York School neighborhood. “I hope Andre will be able to go to school here,” she said Monday.

January 20, 2010


Parents, residents oppose closing schools

Parents in the Lawrence school district don't want to see any of the local elementary schools close. The reality may be that some area schools will close to save money in the face of impending budget cuts. Enlarge video

Get involved

For more information on Save Our Neighborhood Schools, including upcoming events, log on to the group’s Web site at

School closings on the line in Lawrence

With a $4 million budget deficit growing to $5 million, the likelihood of school closings seems to be increasing.

Centennial neighborhood resident Tom Harper is familiar with this feeling.

He and many of his neighbors endured the closing of Centennial School several years ago. And he doesn’t want it to happen again.

“We rallied like many people are rallying today,” Harper recalled. “And we lost. Just talking about it upsets me.”

Three schools — Centennial, East Heights and Riverside — stopped operating as elementary schools in spring 2003. The Lawrence school board is facing a $4 million deficit for next year’s general fund budget, and closing schools is among proposals the board is considering as it attempts to narrow that gap.

But Save Our Neighborhood Schools, a group formed in December, wants to keep classes going in all 15 elementary schools in the district. And members of the group say their efforts aren’t designed only to prevent their children from going to a different school next fall. Their actions also are about keeping neighborhoods in the city thriving.

“There’s no bad school in our district,” said Cari Davis, a New York School parent who teaches at Pinckney. “However, my neighborhood and the neighborhoods around us are going to see a property value drop. That’s not just bad for homeowners. That’s bad for the whole community.”

The group isn’t drawing lines down Iowa Street, either.

“The schools we think are the most threatened are on the east side,” Cordley parent Chuck Epp said. “But closing schools on the east side would have ripple effects across the community. It could have all kinds of devastating consequences for Lawrence.”

While the school board hasn’t centered its discussion of school closings on any specific schools, parents are concerned that the focus will be on smaller schools on the city’s east side.

Gwen Klingenberg, president of the Lawrence Association of Neighborhoods, wants to ensure each neighborhood in Lawrence is protected and retains its own identity.

“We are an eclectic group, an eclectic community. We would lose a lot of that,” Klingenberg said. “Neighborhoods are still affected by those (earlier) closings.”

The group knows the board would prefer not to close any schools as a cost-saving measure. So Save Our Neighborhood Schools hopes to identify other such measures.

“They (the board) are willing to work with anyone that values education in this town and come up with a better solution,” Davis said. “Losing square footage isn’t the solution.”

The neighborhood around New York School has become revitalized with young families, said Nancy Cayton Myers, a New York parent and former site council president.

“If those folks were to leave or not be attracted to these neighborhoods, it becomes a public safety issue that affects everyone,” said Cayton Myers, who’s lived in the area for nearly two decades. “Not to mention the tax ramifications. If the property values decline, that’s fewer dollars for the entire district.”

Save Our Neighborhood Schools is planning to attend elementary school site council meetings and upcoming board meetings. They want as many people to join their cause so they can formulate creative solutions for the budgetary problems.

“This $4 million crisis is not just one side of town’s problem,” Davis said. “I would like everybody in this community to realize that we can all work together.”


KSManimal 8 years, 3 months ago

“Not to mention the tax ramifications. If the property values decline, that’s fewer dollars for the entire district.”

Not exactly. More like higher tax rates for property owners. Districts set their local tax based on % of district general funds, not a static tax rate...... If property is worth less, the tax rate goes up in order to raise the same dollar amount.

That aside, I hope this group will aim their efforts towards the REAL problem and the ONLY folks who can really solve it - 25 miles west of here; under that big green dome.

Also, be aware that when the district say's "larger class sizes" and/or "higher staffing ratio"....those are code for "laying off teachers". For every increase of "one" student per class (a.k.a. - increasing student:teacher ratio by 1 district wide), that translates to about 20 teachers out of work.

kummerow 8 years, 3 months ago

If you are interested in learning more about Save Our Neighborhood Schools, visit their website at

SettingTheRecordStraight 8 years, 3 months ago

If you and I can save $4 million this year by closing underattended schools, we could save that much next year and the the year after that.

Sounds like smart consolidation could help most Lawrence property owners by decreasing the amount collected in property taxes.

JohnDa 8 years, 3 months ago

@ Setting the record straight: If schools close the classroom sizes that will result are not sustainable if we want quality education. So it is not a savings of 4 million per year forever.
Besides, the money saved is the result of fewer teachers salaries, not closing buildings. We can save the same amount without closing schools.

LadyJ 8 years, 3 months ago

I would like to see the costs for East Heights and Centennial Schools now and for the last year they were open.

jackson5 8 years, 3 months ago

Closing these schools will cause overcrowding in the remaining eastside schools. My prediction: when outstanding construction bonds retire in 3-4 years, the district will have the gall to ask us to support a mega-elementary school on the far eastside land purchased last year to address overcrowding. The eastside schools on the closure list are already paid for. Closing these schools will not save us any property taxes this year (or ever). However, new facilities require bonds and property taxes will need to be raised to build a new building.

SettingTheRecordStraight 8 years, 3 months ago


If we wisely close one of these schools (that are being kept open for the sake of property values and nostalgia) and sell it, taxpayers will save big on annual maintenance, and we'll reap a windfall on the sale of the building.

I'm interested to learn more about how we can close a $4 million budget shortfall without closing at least one underattended school. Cutting teachers' salaries won't make that happen.

JohnDa 8 years, 3 months ago


Actually the only way to save money is to increase the number of students per teacher so there are less teachers. Almost all of the savings is in salaries, not in buildings. The numbers are all posted on the school board website if you are interested. Also keep in mind that the board said that money would be recouped by the sale of buildings last time they closed schools and they still own East Heights and Centennial buildings.

avoice 8 years, 3 months ago

The headline nails it. Schools are much more interested in "community" than in education. That's why our country is bottoming out intellectually among developed nations.

sherlock 8 years, 3 months ago

is there some administration employees that could be given a furlough? Is USD497 top heavy with 3 digit paid admistrators? Usual thinking of the board: close a school on the east side which now according to Dr. Doll starts with Sunset school, and not Iowa the usual boundary-----then after the tax payers have let their memories lapse, build another expensive grade school on the west side of Lawrence, because after all those schools are SO overcrowded now! When a school is closed the young families will move to where there is a school, hence west keeps growing until we are touching Lecompton district, and then what? Build, build mentality!

stephanieoverlandpark 8 years, 3 months ago

We live within the Blue Valley School District, but my children attend Lawrence Virtual School. Instead of tax dollars going to the Blue Valley School District, where we live, they follow my students to YOUR district, Lawrence Public Schools. If Lawrence Virtual School was closed, I think approx. 1000 students enrolled (I believe many are outside the Lawrence area) - their tax dollars would not be coming to Lawrence any longer. There are about 30 some virtual schools in our state and your virtual school is the most professionally run virtual school, in my opinion. You may want to talk about GROWING Lawrence Virtual School, instead of closing.

salad 8 years, 3 months ago

"is there some administration employees that could be given a furlough?"

Yes. Educrats make about 2.5 times the average teachers pay, yet taxpayers get nothing for it.

"Is USD497 top heavy with six figure paid admistrators?" -fixed.......and Yes.

das 8 years, 3 months ago

In my opinion, no one should be allowed to post their "insightful" comments here if they have not attended at least one of the MANY meetings so far that have involved School Board members. Then you can spout forth your "solutions" (which would actually be welcomed)

Upcoming -

Jan 21: Hillcrest Neighborhood Meeting

Jan 21: District Goals Meeting @ Cordley

Jan 25: School Board Meeting


Hop2It 8 years, 3 months ago

"Schools are much more interested in “community” than in education."

Interesting thought. What is best for the education of kids? (Not for tax base of certain neighborhoods.) I doubt that it is increasing teacher/child ratio in school schools.

das 8 years, 3 months ago

oneeye_wilbur said: "das, do you really believe what you printed? good luck in your group's endeavor , always ask those in charge if they have made up their mind first, if"

This isn't even a coherent sentence. When you solve a YOU blindly go forth without knowing all the facts. Solutions (good ones that work) involve all facets of the problem they are solving to be understood. But to answer your question...yes. I'm done responding and have made my personal position clear.

SayWhat 8 years, 3 months ago

Why do some think Cordley should be closed. Admittedly, I don't know all the facts, but from what I can tell, the following seems to be true: When the school board was deciding which school to close (Cordley or Centennial), they chose Centennial, stating that any structural/facility issues at Cordley were not that big a deal. Since then, the Cordley neighborhood has flourished with young families and the school is now at capacity. If you look at the population of grades, clearly there is a bubble rising from the youngest grades up, indicating increased enrollment still to come at Cordley. Cordley and its diverse population boast one of the best records for bridging the achievement gap. Somebody explain why of all the schools in Lawrence would Cordley be on the chopping block?

CaraB 8 years, 3 months ago

There is never a good solution when budget cuts come into play. However, I would hate to see any school close. As a Centennial alum, I remember how its closing impacted our neighborhood. Lawrence is known for its excellent schools -- not just its excellent schools on "the good side" of town.

workinghard 8 years, 3 months ago

I was just wondering why Pinckney doesn't seem to be mentioned as far as closings. Not saying it should be closed, none of them should, but was just wondering since their enrollment is also low. They keep saying that parents need to be more involved at their child's school, but if the schools in East Lawrence are closed, many parents would have problems getting to their child's school if they're bused across town. Some families only have one car or no car at all. Communication with their child's teacher would be reduced to sending notes or calling the teacher, won't the teachers love that. I know many kids that do not have Internet, much less a computer so e-mail won't work. No parent teacher conference because they can't get there. Maybe they should close a West Lawrence school and bus them to East Lawrence at least their parents have multiple cars. They drive down to go to Arts Center for classes anyway. Oh, and "walk you kid to school day" would be a big joke, they would have to drive and park a couple of blocks away and "pretend" to walk. You know West Lawrence has a lot of advantages and places that are closer to them, how about letting East Lawrence (east of Iowa) have this one thing, their neighborhood schools. After all they are the ones to stuck with the homeless people, maybe we should bus them to West Lawrence and see how they like it.

imamomma 8 years, 3 months ago

Cordley, Wakarusa, and New York are on the table.......If those are your schools need to start a rally....and those of you (New York) who have.......keep going strong. Those who have not done anything, you really need to write letters and get your concerns out before its to late.....

Stephen Roberts 8 years, 3 months ago

Saywhat- remember that since Centennial closed, Cordley became the second ESL site in the district. Some students from Hillcrest were moved to Cordley.

imamomma 8 years, 3 months ago

Pinckney is not in the top three schools being considered.....

GardenMomma 8 years, 3 months ago

According to the information put in LJWorld, Deerfield is the most expensive school. Why not consider closing that school?

Closing both Cordley and New York schools will result in $3,489,644 in "savings."
Closing Deerfield all by itself will result in $3,240,272 in "savings."

Of course, closing Deerfield displaces 52 more students and one more teacher than closing both New York and Cordley.

There's obviously more to this than meets the eye. I hope a better solution than closing schools can be found. Because if not, ALL neighborhood schools are eventually on the chopping block. Soon it will be Quail Run that is an "East-side school."

Think about that!

imamomma 8 years, 3 months ago

School Board meeting Monday night at 7pm. Bring your family..........Come to the District Office. Support your schools!!!!!

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