Archive for Thursday, January 28, 2010

No rush

Reconfiguring Lawrence schools seems like a good idea, but we need to take time to do it right.

January 28, 2010

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In the current budget crisis, it’s only right for school districts to look at the financial impact of any decision they make.

However, the possibility of saving a few dollars shouldn’t always be the deciding factor.

Last August, the Lawrence school board decided to more closely examine the possibility of moving district ninth-graders to the high schools and sixth-graders to junior highs/middle schools. Their plan, was to look at the pros and cons of the move independent of any budget constraints. “It was never intended to be discussed together,” Supt. Rick Doll said Tuesday.

Unfortunately, the pressures of reduced state funding have put budget considerations front and center in almost every school discussion. The possibility of saving even a modest amount of money by reconfiguring the schools was enough to make some board members think about speeding up the process. Instead of taking a year to look at the change and aim for implementation in fall of 2011, some board members wanted to look at making the change in fall 2010.

Doll says the district may be able to gain some efficiencies by better balancing class sizes and moving classes like sixth-grade band to the middle schools. However, he added, “That’s not the main point. The point is to do what’s best for kids.”

A couple of factors argue for taking a year to make this transition. First, district teachers and staff need time to prepare for the move especially for sixth-graders. A new middle school model should involve a re-evaluation of how classes are organized. For instance, one sixth-grade teacher quoted in Sunday’s Journal-World noted that middle schools usually put students in teams and pair them with core teachers who know them individually. That makes sense, but it’s a different approach.

Speeding up the shift also may have minimal impact on the district budget. The savings from reconfiguring the schools are expected to be relatively modest and might be largely offset this year by the costs of actually implementing the change.

Lawrence is the last school in the state not to have four-year high schools, and Doll said he thinks “there is some momentum in the community” to make the change. It’s good for the school board to be seriously looking at this shift, but it’s important to get it right. Rushing the implementation of the plan in hopes of saving a little money is false economy.

Comments

Stephen Roberts 5 years, 5 months ago

So in order to meet budget, lets close one or two schools, move boundaries, then the year after next- move 6th & 9th graders. Oh no, now our elementary schools are underutilized, let's close so more schools. Does this make sense? NO.

The board needs to look at all of these together.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 5 months ago

CENTER FOR URBAN POLICY AND THE ENVIRONMENT DECEMBER 2003

What determines the price of real estate? Location. Location. Location. This cliché is a good starting point for a discussion of property values and public choices, for it leads to the question why property values vary in different locations.

Most property owners know from experience that similar properties in different neighborhoods can command vastly dif- ferent prices. But many may not realize that public choices can have large effects on property values. Public choices about capi- tal investments, public services, and taxation affect property val- ues because their impacts vary in different places.

A new highway interchange, for example, generally increases the value of nearby property because it increases its accessibility.

Conversely, a decision to close a school or a neighborhood police station may decrease the value of property in the neighbor- hood.

In public policy debates, moreover, decision makers often lack information about how their choices will affect property values.

WilburM 5 years, 5 months ago

Take your time, anticipate as many consequences as possible, get the teachers/parents on board, and don't get blinded by short-term financial gains. Maybe actually use some imagination (multiple grade classes? one principal for two small schools?) that would allow a little experimentation, rather than one size fits all.

Oh, and get the state to change, either permanently or temporarily, the inability to move $$ between facilities and programs.

Hop2It 5 years, 5 months ago

Starting next school year, EVERY district in the state except Lawrence will have 4 year high schools. It is not about short-term gains, it is about the polices and curriculum designed in the best interests of the students to help them succeed in school and beyond.

weeslicket 5 years, 5 months ago

moving 9th graders, finally, into their high schools is an easy call. the board should realize that moving these high school kids into their high schools, is less of a "disruption" than school closures.
don't all consolidations take "preparation" and "organization"?

dr. doll can begin providing leadership any time, now.
otherwise we run the risk of having more of scott morgan's brand of kinder, gentler leadership.

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