Tom Waechter and his five volunteer colleagues are busy visiting schools, gathering floorplans, gauging quality of lighting and compiling dozens more measures of the Lawrence school district’s elementary schools — all with two goals in mind.
First: Determine just what assets the district has as it prepares to shift sixth grades into middle schools for next year.
Second: Come up with a model for what elementary schools should look like in the years ahead, including building sizes, layouts, programming and site placements within the community.
“That will all be part of the look forward,” said Waechter, chairman of a committee reviewing the physical conditions of elementary schools.
Waechter, assistant director of design and construction management at Kansas University, is among 24 volunteers who make up four committees that together form a single task force to assess the past, present and future of Lawrence’s 15 traditional elementary schools.
Their charge: Recommend improvements — such as replacing, remodeling, closing or otherwise reusing buildings and their components — to best meet the district’s programming needs, both with available and anticipated resources.
Members met Monday at district headquarters to offer status reports. They’d met twice in August, and are scheduled to meet six more times before gathering Jan. 3 to put together a final report for the Lawrence school board.
“We’re in the information-gathering stage,” said Chuck Warner, a retired bank president and chairman of the committee looking at operations and efficiencies.
The final report from the Lawrence Elementary School Facility Vision Task Force is expected to be a single document covering topics considered central to best reflecting various community and educational values within budgetary constraints. Among other things, members are to define the concept of “neighborhood school,” assess schools’ operating costs and financial efficiencies, and research what would be considered optimal class sizes, staffing levels and other factors for new and remodeled schools.
And Waechter’s committee will be looking to translate those values to numbers on paper, likely in ranges for board members to consider when making decisions about particular school buildings or sites.
“It’s a big public exercise,” Waechter said after Monday’s meeting. “Of course the most dynamic piece is yet to come: when we all compare notes.”