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Archive for Sunday, March 28, 2010

School task force planned

Panel would evaluate elementaries

The Lawrence Board of Education discussed their study of budgets ideas for the school district Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2010. Superintendent Dr. Rick Doll, left,  spoke during the study session meeting.

The Lawrence Board of Education discussed their study of budgets ideas for the school district Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2010. Superintendent Dr. Rick Doll, left, spoke during the study session meeting.

March 28, 2010

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School board organizing task force

The Lawrence school board is planning to put together a task force to evaluate local elementary schools. The board recently cut millions from the budget without closing any schools. Enlarge video

Advocates of neighborhood elementary schools breathed sighs of relief earlier this month when Lawrence school board members cut $4.6 million from the budget without closing any schools for next school year.

As part of that deal, board members will appoint a task force to study the district’s elementary buildings, the repairs they might need and their capacities, especially in case more budget cuts are on the horizon for the 2011-2012 school year.

“It’s balancing the idea that we’d like to keep our neighborhood school concept with the idea that the financial restraints that are placed upon us now are putting more and more pressures on us to become efficient,” Superintendent Rick Doll said.

District administrators are still putting the framework together for who will serve on the task force, but they expect to begin taking applications soon.

“Our task would be to make sure we have a broad range of people on the committee,” Doll said. “It would be helpful if people would come with an open mind so they could look at a lot of different options.”

Right now administrators are considering a group of 20 to 25 community members, likely including two board members. Consultants from an architectural and long-range planning firm will likely be in the mix as well.

“One of the advantages of using an outside consultant is they don’t have the ties to the community, and they are not tied in to one position or another,” Doll said. “They’ll come in with an open mind and listen, plus they bring some expertise.”

Administrators hope board members can approve the makeup of the committee soon so they can begin sending out applications. Board members would approve the framework of the committee and the membership, Doll said.

Doll wants to have the task force in place before this summer. The idea is for the committee to put a recommendation in front of the school board in early 2011. The nature of the recommendations are forthcoming.

Several people, especially advocates who didn’t want board members to close any schools as part of this year’s budget talks, are already inquiring about how they can be part of the task force, Doll said, which is still being determined.

Scott Morgan, the school board’s president, proposed the compromise of creating a task force after originally presenting a plan to close two elementary schools.

“I want to keep it a manageable number of people. If it gets too big, it’s more of a convention and less of a task force,” he said.

Group members will study the district’s elementary facilities. About 40 percent of elementary students are in five larger schools: Deerfield, Langston Hughes, Prairie Park, Quail Run and Sunflower. The remaining 60 percent attend the 10 other schools.

Jessica Beeson, a member of Save Our Neighborhood Schools, said group members were glad to see the district agree to take a year to let a community group study elementary facilities as opposed to closing them for next school year.

“I think Save Our Neighborhood Schools and certainly other community members feel very strongly that that’s a really positive step,” Beeson said last week.

Comments

fly_on_wall 4 years ago

A BIG problem people had with closing schools is short sited problem solving as well as a NO plan for children or adequate timing to prepare people. There where and still are a number of balls in the air that needed to be decided on which would affect Elementary.

Does Ninth grade Move to High School? If that happens does 6th grade move to Junior highs? What is fiscal cost or savings of this move? What happens to the space in elementary schools? Do we need to change High School boundary lines? Do we need to change Elementary Boundary lines. How should we do that change if yes?

As unpopular as school closings are Boundary line changes are more unpopular. A closed school just affects one area of schools ( supposedly). Across the district redrawing of boundaries will affect everyone. When has the boundaries been redrawn district wide to accommodate the growing population and facility use? With information from the census maybe that redrawing would be better the census information would also give more accurate information on population which they may take into consideration of school closings.

USD 497 Knows how to educate. We are lucky to have really good schools here in Lawrence. How do we make changes and keep our educational standards. How do we protect the investments of tax payers? The heart of the matter is school funding. Hopefully this task force can look at multiple issues regarding our schools and come up with the best solution to the problems long term.

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Iam Tired 4 years ago

From the article, "Scott Morgan, the school board’s president, proposed the compromise of creating a task force after originally presenting a plan to close two elementary schools."

I remember that idea coming from the community during the fourth forum at West Junior High School. It was proposed by the guy speaking for Wakarusa parents. He explained it in this comment on one of DIST's blogs (http://www2.ljworld.com/weblogs/did_i_say_that/2010/mar/03/a-heightened-war-war-council-chosen-quail-run-a-ne/#c1170222):

"It was suggested to the School Board that there was a benefit in approving such a moratorium. Than all of the effort, time, energy, research, and passion that is currently going into the one issue of "Save our Schools" could be harnessed and redirected toward solving the real problem. I also stated that I believed that most of the parents currently engaged in this issue would support the board in this decision and help with the solution. This meant exactly what I said, we would not simply disappear because our issue had been won....

"This is why other means of reducing the budget must be used. The District is not prepared to make good decisions about closing any school. Facility utilization decisions should be completely separate of operational budget decisions. This is evidenced by the Districts failure to reduce operational costs after the last round of closings."

Not that it makes a whole lot of difference, but I think that the community gave the school board a way out of the corner that they had painted themselves into. That way may end up biting them in the butt. It would be ironic if this guy got stuck on the task force and had to take the heat for recommending closing a school!

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Iam Tired 4 years ago

@ LadyJ - You are correct; the public was reminded of that every time someone mentioned the spending for Stadiums, etc. But, the task force will probably have to take that into consideration. Fiduciary prudence will require that the Task Force show better judgment than what the Administration and Board has in the past.

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LadyJ 4 years ago

I would just like to point out that repairs come out of a different fund, you know that one that built the stadiums, which seemingly has more than enough money in it. Repairs have nothing to do with "the budget" which is where closing schools saves money.

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Benjamin Roberts 4 years ago

This is going to be a very difficult challenge. It is possible that the community members appointed to this task force, some of whom may have fought to save elementary schools, may find themselves in the position of recommending a school closing. Although the conclusion may be supported with research and reason, it will still be quite unpopular. However, the Board will be acting within its own policy at that point in time.

Politically speaking, this was a very smart move for the Board of Education. The burden of proof for any future school closure was removed from them, along with much of the political fall-out. Any blame will effectively fall upon the task force: deserved, or not.

Those appointed to this council had best be able to truly say that they are interested in the health of all Lawrence Schools. Many, during the budget crisis made such a claim - an appointee to the task force will have to have the mettle to back-up that claim. Good luck to any chosen for this ominous duty. You will soon learn what you meant when you said, “I want to thank the Board for volunteering to perform a thankless job.”

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