Middle school timing uncertain

Lawrence school board members are sure they want to continue moving toward a middle school reconfiguration and a four-year high school, but the timeline on when to make the move is something they couldn’t agree on.

“To me it has to be part of our discussion that we move as rapidly as possible to making that happen before we start, or along with, making some of these other significant decisions … about education in our district,” board member Mark Bradford said.

Other members, including President Scott Morgan and Vice President Rich Minder, weren’t convinced reconfiguration needed to be completed and implemented by the fall.

“I’m not there at all,” Morgan said. He noted the transition wouldn’t be as simple for sixth-graders as it would be for those in ninth grade. “It’s not simply moving from one facility to another. It’s moving kids from one program to another. I want to do it right.”

Chief academic officer Kim Bodensteiner said there is room at all levels for more kids. Some of the benefits to reconfiguring the schools include parameters for state standards, programs and requirements, which are all set up for a 9-12 high school system, and curriculum alignment. However, the flip side includes fewer opportunities for music and athletics, more traffic at the high schools and the possibility of open lunch for ninth-graders.

“Everything in our state is set up around the idea of a four-year, 9-through-12 high school,” Bodensteiner said.

The board decided to move ahead with the potential of reconfiguring the schools but asked the district administration to provide more information on the specifics of what it would take to implement the change next fall compared with a later date, though still in the near future.

While the district recommended taking one year to plan the new system, some board members think a quick move might help close the district’s budgetary gap and prevent other drastic measures.

“I do not want to be in a situation where I’m moving kids around three, four times,” board member Bob Byers said. “Let’s realize that reconfiguration and our budget are somewhat intertwined. “

The board will have a budgetary study session at 4:30 p.m. Feb. 2 at district headquarters, 110 McDonald Drive.