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Letters to the Editor

Share the burden

March 6, 2010

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To the editor:

This is an open letter to the parents from Quail Run that spoke at the school district’s forum Tuesday night. I thought I would introduce myself. According to the district, if Hillcrest closes, my daughter will be transferred to Quail Run. According to the district’s Web site, closing Hillcrest will increase the enrollment of Quail Run to 527. I also hope you had the opportunity to meet parents from Sunset Hill. If their school closes, the district says that the enrollment at Quail Run will increase to 580. Either way, I guess things will get kind of cozy.

There seems to be a misperception that this is a choice between closing schools and increased class sizes. This is untrue for two reasons. First, children of closed schools don’t disappear. Closed schools will increase class sizes at Quail Run, Sunflower and Langston Hughes. Second, to get to $5 million, the district will need to close schools AND increase class sizes.

Closing neighborhood elementary schools is fundamentally unfair, not in terms of east/west side resources, but because it places a disproportionate burden on elementary schools as a way to preserve class sizes, extracurricular activities, and electives (like jewelry making) at the junior high and high school levels. Student-teacher ratio increases are less unfair because they spread the burden upward to the higher grades. Forget closing schools, it is time to ask the high schools and junior highs to share the burden.

Comments

Richard Heckler 4 years, 9 months ago

Leave our children alone. Children are not as invincible as some adults may think..

USD 497 admin building is the building to close. It the BOE says it cannot be done that is simply not true. It would make a lovely new office building or it could become a convention center for Holdiay INN.

OUR current budget crisis could use that building on the market to reduce the principle by several million on the sports expansion project thereby reducing the interest being paid on the principle. The interest of $250,000 a year coming from the general fund was an irresponsible decision. Now those who made that decision should make the sacrifice in the name of maintaining reasonable size classrooms. Whatever activity the admin building is housing can surely be accomplished in the virtual school building.

Maintenance/USD 497 vehicles can be parked at the new LHS parking lot. No doubt the virtual school can house some of the supplies.

There is no possible way to justify keeping that building on OUR tax dollar expense list. The decision to purchase that expensive piece of property was questioned in the first place as to the real life necessity.

Putting the admin building on the matket now is the fiscal responsible decision. Because of the location,design and parking available it will bring the most money of any USD 497 property.

Let's make the most fiscal responsible decision and leave the children alone.

OutlawJHawk 4 years, 9 months ago

The proper semantic, a business term, needs to be used in what is being considered in the district...economy of scale. Less and larger factories, branches, schools, etc. fit the definition.

sickofdummies 4 years, 9 months ago

Was anyone else in the meeting on Tuesday? I was. I've since seen a huge attack on the parents of Quail Run. I never heard a Quail Run parent speak out in favor of closing schools. I felt that their comments were more a reaction to the suggestion of increasing ratios vs. closing schools. To me, the comments were more of an, "increasing ratios is not a simple fix," as they would currently know from their current class sizes. I really didn't feel that there was finger pointing at all, only a plea to keep the educational needs of all students as the top priority. It would be unfair to expect a school to close and have the students of that school carry the burden for the district. It would be equally unfair to expect larger schools, such as Quail Run, to have enormous classes, and therefore their children carry the burden. I wish everyone would remember that we are a community, and should all be looking out for the well being of ALL children in the district. The budget cuts have to be made, and if there are sacrifices to be made, the district should share those sacrifices equally.

sickofdummies 4 years, 9 months ago

I'm also curious how ratio increases spread the burden upward? Can anyone explain that? I understood it to be that if the ratio increases, then there will be larger elementary classes. Wouldn't this be then used as an excuse to close schools? For example, we can now fit those 3 classes into 2 classrooms, so the schools need to be combined and a building closed? I'm just thinking. It seems like it could be a little like chasing your tail.

I agree that jewelry making should not be more important than say, 3rd grade math. Is that truly what is being protected? or is this just rhetoric to get attention and sway the community to this way of thinking?

I'm also wondering how this particular writer would feel about ratio increase in the following situation. While larger schools would have their classes increased upward of 32 to 34-35, would schools with smaller classes be willing to have grade levels combined to meet those ratios as well? I can't imagine that would be easy on the children. I would just say, be careful what you wish for!

sickofdummies 4 years, 9 months ago

I'm also curious how ratio increases spread the burden upward? Can anyone explain that? I understood it to be that if the ratio increases, then there will be larger elementary classes. Wouldn't this be then used as an excuse to close schools? For example, we can now fit those 3 classes into 2 classrooms, so the schools need to be combined and a building closed? I'm just thinking. It seems like it could be a little like chasing your tail.

I agree that jewelry making should not be more important than say, 3rd grade math. Is that truly what is being protected? or is this just rhetoric to get attention and sway the community to this way of thinking?

I'm also wondering how this particular writer would feel about ratio increase in the following situation. While larger schools would have their classes increased upward of 32 to 34-35, would schools with smaller classes be willing to have grade levels combined to meet those ratios as well? I can't imagine that would be easy on the children. I would just say, be careful what you wish for!

songbird 4 years, 9 months ago

Does anyone know what the building capacity is at Quail Run? 527 OR 580 sounds like too many kids for that building! I have heard certain board members say it's not an either/or situation, student teacher ratio increase is in ADDITION to potential school closings. WHAT will this do to test scores? How many kids will fall through the cracks in overcrowded classrooms and overcrowded schools? I'm on board with the Save Our Neighborhood Schools and Wakarusa groups who have found alternative and creative solutions that do not involve school closings. Combined with some of the cuts found by our USD497 administration, we can surely get there for next school year. CONTACT legislators in Topeka, we need to get to the root of the problem and soon! This will benefit ALL children, east and west, in our district!

songbird 4 years, 9 months ago

I was at the meeting, In all fairness to the QR parents and at the risk of pointing a finger, I believe there was a presence from Langston Hughes that also presented the idea that closing schools was more palatable to them than raising the student teacher ratio. A few QR parents ALSO made this point - so you (Did_I_Say_That) are correct - but they were not alone in their stance. I have a hard time with this argument since school closures would not affect LH or Sunflower at all (unless QR was the school that was closed) See school closure examples on the district website, Feb 2nd study session http://www.usd497.org/AboutUs/MeetTheSchoolBoard/Agenda/2009.10Archives/documents/20100202StudySession/SchoolClosureExamples.pdf. So, of course, they don't want to see the ratio increased. No one want to see the ratio increased, but we are all in this together, it is unfair that some school would be untouched and others would be eliminated, divided and absorbed!

sickofdummies 4 years, 9 months ago

Did I-Not to beat a dead horse, but... I heard a QR parent say that they supported the board's decision, whatever it is, I heard one talk about the effects of overcrowding, and a couple of them ask that burdens be spread among the district. I also heard a couple of LH parents question raising ratios and one of them comment that it is not the building that is important, but the teachers, etc... (see, I was paying very good attention, actually). But....I never did hear a QR parents say, "I am in favor of closing schools," "would you please close a school," or even "I support the closing of schools." It seems that you are making assumptions on their implied meanings... (and thus your blog seems pretty nasty)

I'm feeling that everyone is very emotional about this issue, as they should be. But, there seems to be a little finger pointing, Did I. Again, I state that whatever the decisions made, the community should be joining together to come to a solution, and everyone willing to share a portion of the burden. No matter your feeling on east or west, the children deserve a good education. All of them. I, personally wish that no child would be affected, but that doesn't seem likely at this point. It would be nice if the cuts are spread so that minimal effects are felt by every child, versus major repercussions on a small percentage.

In addition, I wish everyone would start setting an example for the children, and being civil and caring to one another. After all, we are all in this together. What will happen if boundaries change and these children are put together. I certainly hope that they have not witnessed this nastiness. Regardless of what happens, the kids will need all of the adults around them to find the positive in the situation and be supportive of their learning environment.

multiagelearner 4 years, 9 months ago

If you close a school you save more teaching jobs. If you close some schools you will eliminate the classrooms of 13, 14, and 17 students at New York. Unfair? Go find Randy W. and Bruce P. and talk to them about how unfair this is. They set this district up for failure and jumped ship. I agree to look at learning coaches, guidance counselors in the elementary schools, and the jobs held by anyone else over at the district office that doesn't directly work with studnets. Within the last four years there have been more positions created for "chief officers" than in the past. Why do we need them all? Head of math, head of reading, head of SPED, head of all the heads, head of textbooks.....and they just keep going!

multiagelearner 4 years, 9 months ago

If you close a school you save more teaching jobs. If you close some schools you will eliminate the classrooms of 13, 14, and 17 students at New York. Unfair? Go find Randy W. and Bruce P. and talk to them about how unfair this is. They set this district up for failure and jumped ship. I agree to look at learning coaches, guidance counselors in the elementary schools, and the jobs held by anyone else over at the district office that doesn't directly work with studnets. Within the last four years there have been more positions created for "chief officers" than in the past. Why do we need them all? Head of math, head of reading, head of SPED, head of all the heads, head of textbooks.....and they just keep going!

puckstah 4 years, 9 months ago

There are QR, Sunflower and Langston Hughes parents/families who are supportive of the SONS budget cut proposals. These schools' situation of too many children in some classrooms is wrong. It is yet another example of how our district administration has not managed issues well. It is also another reason we should STOP THIS TRAIN until this district has a strategic long-range plan, including a facilities plan, that is generated from the Lawrence community.

Our peer districts have plans, but we don't???? Ridiculous. We should NOT close schools under this situation. We should hold off on any decisions of this magnitude by finding cuts elsewhere, and put together a strategic plan that starts with a large committee made up of broad community representation to determine priorities for how we want our children educated.

It certainly appears that upper level district administration has either told these school patrons or led them to believe that it is an either/or situation. Either close schools, or further increase your class sizes. They didn't share that when they close schools, it essentially raises the class sizes of contiguous schools???? Convenient, isn't it? If administration gets this community fighting, by pitting schools against schools, then they can overwhelm the board and get what they want.

If you agree that neither school closure nor increases in teacher/student ratios is an option in this district, email the SB members NOW to tell them NOT to close schools, and NOT to raise the class ratio until this issue can be addressed appropriately. This issue will be discussed and perhaps decided upon at Monday's board meeting.

Robert Kidder 4 years, 9 months ago

puckstah,

Well said! The District has approximately $6.5 million in contingency/unencumbered funds available. The complete expected deficit of this and next year's budget shortfall could be covered with this fund; excepting the medical benefit plan. The District maintains that they must keep $5.5 in reserve due to cover salaries in case of late State payments. However, the amount to cover one pay cycle (15 days) is less than half the amount the District is determined to keep in reserves.

The District needs to put a 14 month moratorium on the closing of any schools. That would allow time for the District to follow its own Policy on closing schools which requires a Facilities Survey, a Community Committee, and master planning.

beaujackson 4 years, 9 months ago

Is the teachers union in charge of the school board?

Administrators and SB members "hear", but they don't "listen".

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