Letters to the Editor

School déjà vu

January 27, 2010


To the editor:

Six years ago, the USD 497 school board closed Riverside, Centennial and East Heights elementary schools, dealing three thriving Lawrence neighborhoods a serious blow. Then, as now, budget shortfalls needed to be filled. But haven’t we learned anything since those dark days of 2003? Then, as now, school board members maintained that neighborhood schools are somehow “inefficient,” slavishly hewing to a one-size-fits-all business model that in no way serves students, parents or neighborhoods. Study after study has shown that neighborhood schools are, in fact, more efficient ways to achieve the district’s own goals of closing the achievement gap between low-income students and their better-off counterparts.

Closing neighborhood schools is a lazy, dishonest, stopgap solution to the long-term problems facing our city and our schools. People move to Lawrence precisely because of its neighborhoods, each with its own character and charm. Closing a school, as we have seen, permanently decimates the very neighborhoods on which our city’s character is built. This does not need to happen again. I invite readers to witness the profound and heartening renaissance in young families in neighborhoods like those bordering New York School. Are the members of the school board really considering amputation (that’s really what we’re talking about here) to cure a temporary flu bug originating from a lagging economy and stubborn Legislature?

Bad budgets come and go. But closing a school is forever. Has our school board gotten any wiser over the past six years, or are we in for déjà vu all over again?


JohnDa 8 years, 4 months ago

I'm glad someone finally called out school closing for what it is, a lazy decision.

four11 8 years, 4 months ago

Bravo! That is a super letter! Thank you!

Ricky_Vaughn 8 years, 4 months ago

I agree 100%! Very well written as well. I used to go Centennial when I was a kid...it's a shame it's closed now.

honestone 8 years, 4 months ago

One-eye...What have you got against the Cordley neighborhood? Did they hurt you somehow? Why would you suggest closing a school that has just recently had a lot of HVAC, ADA and other infastructure work done? Why would you suggest closing a school that has a fantastic program for children at risk? Why would you consider closing the last elementry school in that area? Why would you further destroy the neighborhood by suggesting the flophouse be placed there? You obviously don't live anywhere near there. Did someone p#*s in your cornflakes??

BadLlama 8 years, 4 months ago

If everyone is so opposed to closing these schools, why is no one offering up viable alternatives? There is a lot of shouting about the new facilities and about cutting administrative positions, but is this really all we can think of? The facilities are built--get over it, it's DONE! It's time to let it go and start figuring out what to do NOW. Lawrence is a forward thinking, educated town, and yet it seems like no one can find a solution to this problem that doesn't involve whining about a couple of football fields.

I don't live in Lawrence anymore, but I live in a community that is facing the exact same problem--closing of a neighborhood elementary school. We are even in the process of putting together a bond issue for new facilities. Lawrence is not the only district with this problem--it's EVERYWHERE! Every part of the state is going through this--and WORSE.

To me, because this is a state-wide problem, you can't simply blame the school board, the superintendent, or the administrators. The blame also lies with the state of Kansas reneging on their promise to fund schools appropriately. Write your legislators! Tell them what this is doing to our schools! For people who are supposed to be representing our best interests in Topeka, they are sure doing a crappy job of it.

jafs 8 years, 4 months ago


That's fine, except that the football fields represent the way in which the school district spends money poorly.

When I voted for the bond, I didn't know I would be voting for athletic fields. To me, "capital improvements" meant things like maintenance/repair of buildings.

I wouldn't vote for athletic fields, and will have to think much more carefully if the school district wants us to vote them some more money.

KsTwister 8 years, 4 months ago

Before those schools it was India and Kaw Valley, which Kaw Valley was a gift from Co-op, no overhead. Lame school board with individuals who remember that only to say "we need another school there" , and built Prairie Park. Somewhere there is someone who sees the logic in it.The parents of those kids never did nor the PTA for those schools. Lawrence needs to flip the switch on their meeting room, we would all be better off.

They are buying land out by 31st street to build another school.........logic?

Richard Heckler 8 years, 4 months ago

USD 497 needs a 24/7 watchdog group.

USD needs to put that plush admin building on the market to help pay for their athletic project. Move to the virtual school building and become part of the community.

All new projects need to be approved by the voters from this day forward. No matter what creative financing is available. The creative financing needs the approval of the voting taxpayers as well.

Reckless spending brings on the need for wayyyyyy more oversight.

Good letter BTW.

KsTwister 8 years, 4 months ago

In this city anyone who doesn't believe there are alterior motives to requests for change, is as in the dark as the leaders you choose. Lawrence is a beggar on the doorstep in Washington and at home, but when you give them what they ask it is applied to other things,and again they return to your doorstep. They raised our sewer and water rates in 2004 to pay for the very sewer system that has yet to be built. Time's Up; where is that money???

cato_the_elder 8 years, 4 months ago

Jonathan Earle, outstanding letter. Here's the board's game plan:

  1. Move ninth grade students to the high school buildings.

  2. Move sixth grade students to the junior high school buildings, and rename them "middle schools."

  3. Close smaller elementary schools made even smaller by the removal of all of their sixth grade students.

  4. Having immediately re-crowded the high school buildings, proceed to build, equip, furnish and maintain a third high school. This will include building additional athletic facilities, either on site or at a new sports complex, with the athletic facilities that have just been built being converted for use in junior varsity events.

If you think this sounds surrealistic, it's not. A good number of veteran teachers are aware of it. This is precisely what's on the drawing board, and has been for many years. Certain Lawrence school administrators and certain current and former school board members have coveted this since even before the bond issue for a second high school was passed, but have known that politically they have had to shoehorn the community into this by "educating the public" about what school of education theorists call "paradigm shifts." Ultimately, what it all translates into is spending a great deal more of taxpayers' money, and new plaques in school buildings with board members' names on them.

Wake up, Lawrence. Oppose school closings vigorously. Run for the school board. The only way that this can be changed is to elect sensible people to our Board of Education, which will never occur as long as the most capable citizens in this community continually refuse to do so.

seriouscat 8 years, 4 months ago

Closing neighborhood schools is indeed a lazy and short sighted decision. Everything about the proposal is so counter-intuitive it's clear that the people on the school board took off their educator hats and put on their politician hats long ago and can't even think like anything but politicians. Very sad.

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