Archive for Saturday, April 2, 2011

Wakarusa Valley building may stay in use as new location for Lawrence Virtual School

April 2, 2011


A Wakarusa Valley student's poster shows appreciation for efforts to save the school. The Lawrence school board voted to close the school southeast of Clinton Lake at the end of the school year. Leaders have yet to determine what to do with the school building, which was soon to celebrate its 50th birthday.

A Wakarusa Valley student's poster shows appreciation for efforts to save the school. The Lawrence school board voted to close the school southeast of Clinton Lake at the end of the school year. Leaders have yet to determine what to do with the school building, which was soon to celebrate its 50th birthday.

Wakarusa Valley School will close at the end of this school year, but it may not remain closed for long.

Less than a week after members of the Lawrence school board voted to close the elementary school just southeast of Clinton Lake — a move expected to save the district $487,000 a year — administrators now are busy compiling options that could reopen the building for different uses.

The leading contender: Relocate the Lawrence Virtual School from its current home at the former Centennial School, south of Lawrence High School, to the 50-year-old building on 10 acres at 1104 E. 1000 Road.

Such a move would give Wakarusa Valley a tenant that would be paying for operations out of a different operational budget and ensure that Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts, 4-Hers, Rural Water District No. 5, sports teams and area families could still utilize the building and grounds for meetings, games and other happenings.

“We’re looking at ways that we can continue to use Wakarusa Valley that would allow us to let it be used for community events,” said Frank Harwood, the district’s chief operations officer. “The best thinking right now is that the Virtual School would be a good solution.”

But it’s not necessarily the only solution.

District’s needs

Administrators are busy considering a number of options, all of which remain in play for a site that would work in concert with other district needs.

Among the other needs expected to factor into decisions about Wakarusa Valley:

• The district has known for months that it will need to move its Adult Education Program out of the Lawrence High School annex to open up space for LHS classes as the high school welcomes ninth-graders to campus next year for the first time.

• The district’s Diploma Completion Program, operated by a contractor in The Malls Shopping Center, also will need a new home now that the district plans to bring it back into the district as a way to save $215,000 a year.

The two operations conceivably could move into the former Centennial building, 2145 La., where they would share space with ongoing offerings provided by Johnson County Community College.

Such an arrangement would depend on the Virtual School moving out, which has not yet been recommended to nor approved by the school board.

“We’ve got some plans,” said Rick Doll, district superintendent. “Lots of things are up in the air.”

‘It’s very frustrating’

Sonja Hart, president of the school’s PTO, said she had heard about a few other possibilities, including Johnson County Community College conducting classes — such as those involving culinary education — at Wakarusa Valley, which has a large kitchen. The school also could end up as a site for district storage, especially as administrators start making plans for taking advantage of bulk-purchasing opportunities, a move expected to save the district $100,000 during the next school year.

No matter what happens, she said, area residents and parents of Wakarusa Valley students feel like they’ve been “lied to over and over again” throughout the entire closure process.

“Now they’re going to use the building, just not for what its intended purpose was,” Hart said. “It’s very frustrating.”

But given the choice of the building being used in some capacity or instead “mothballed” for potential future use, Hart would prefer that it be used now.

“We need a community center out there, so if we have to pick, that’s what we pick,” she said.

Harwood said it would be unlikely to use the site for bulk storage, given the school’s lack of loading docks, large entryways and other features typically needed to produce efficiencies. And community college courses likely would be more appropriate in town, in proximity to programs for diploma completion and adult education.

Using Wakarusa Valley for the Virtual School would allow the district to spend “weighted” money it receives from the state for such education, Harwood said. That way, the thinking goes, such spending would not “eat into” the $487,000 the district expects to save operationally with the closure of Wakarusa Valley as an elementary school.

Administrators are still mulling options and weighing alternatives and studying possibilities.

“It is walking that line of trying to use the facilities that we have in the best way that we can,” Harwood said.


Richard Heckler 6 years, 10 months ago

I say put everything on hold until new BOE is in place.

Haste makes waste!!!

The USD 497 BOE basically gave East Heights away to the Boys and Girls club.

A noble gesture butttttttttttttt

Richard Heckler 6 years, 10 months ago

Sell the big white building which represents extravagance!

irvan moore 6 years, 10 months ago

doll says we got some plans, yeah, i bet they do.

LogicMan 6 years, 10 months ago

The school and its land is in Lawrence's designated growth area, and shouldn't be sold. Leased out, yes. Any of the private schools looking for a bigger location?

buffalo63 6 years, 10 months ago

Of course WV parents have been lied to. This is just like the first meeting the LHS neighbors had with the District about the athletic fields. They were told over and over during the meeting that they were to be practice fields. The second meeting the drawings showed the stadium, the third meeting showed different drawings and the fourth time was at the City Commission with again a new set of drawings. Then the District didn't build what they drew. On top of all that, the fiasco with the "donated locker rooms" at Free State. We need a Board and administration that can develop a long range educational plan that everyone can buy into, then get it done correctly, or at least let the public know what the plans are before decisions are made. Are we to believe these plans for WV building were just thought of since the last Board meeting?

Cogito_Ergo_Es 6 years, 10 months ago

They have absolutely known what they wanted to do with OUR building for months! They definitely discuss things behind closed doors and then drop bombshells on the public. Gotta love the transparency. Do the taxpayers get a vote on how our property should be used?? Nevermind, I know the answer.

workinghard 6 years, 10 months ago

Unbelievable, hidden agenda all along, but did we really expect anything else from Mary Loveland and Scott Morgan. Heck they probably didn't even let the rest of the school board in on it till later. Well now Cordley students can move over to Centennial and use the fields to play on during recess. Heck they can even play tennis and LHS could end up with some really good tennis players in the future.

Cogito_Ergo_Es 6 years, 10 months ago

Don't forget Minder, he's clearly in bed with Doll and Morgan on all of this. The Three Musketeers!

Scott Morgan 6 years, 10 months ago

One of the reasons many "dropouts" do not gain a high school diploma is chronic transportation problems. Often these people come from lower household income environments. Couple housing instability with the aforementioned and often just getting to school is a chore.

The Diploma Completion Center doesn't receive enough accolades. Placement off 23rd St. surrounded by at least interesting and diverse businesses as neighbors was a great decision. The T actually works in this case.

And whaaa? We are thinking of changing all this?

GMom05 6 years, 10 months ago

Good Point Wissmo. But they wouldn't listen to reason, as evidenced by Monday night. They just have to make some move to show that closing Wakarusa goes to the betterment of the district. So, they'd sacrifice elementary students for adult students. Whatever.

Scott Morgan 6 years, 10 months ago

Oh Grasshopper, you are so wrong. Snatch this pebble from my hand. As you know am far from a lib., but............

For every dropout you see playing around there are 5 watching siblings, sobering up momma, patching up momma or daddy, helping daddy with his off the grid job.

ksriver2010 6 years, 10 months ago

It is inconceivable why BOE would shut down Wakarusa Valley. Its in a huge growth area. Or maybe they want to keep with their centralization plan and bus them downtown. Works for a central public library.

irvan moore 6 years, 10 months ago

could we elect a virtual school board and get rid of the real one?

maybeso 6 years, 10 months ago

SERIOUSLY??? $!&^%!!! Are they just making this up as they go along??? I am disgusted with this school board. Whoever voted for Morgan and Loveland AGAIN after they closed Centennial instead of Cordley is at fault too. Same deal as Waky: Centennial was ADA compliant, cheaper to operate, MUCH safer location for little kids, no lead/asbestos, better parking and bus zone, sound building with no urgent renovation needs, and so on. Clearly, an undisclosed agenda at work. Why does a VIRTUAL school need a building in the first place? Now they will have TWO?? Or is there yet another ill-advised use for Centennial coming? I apologize for shouting, but how can we tolerate this kind of secrecy and arrogance?? Anyone who can should just homeschool next year.

Russell Fryberger 6 years, 10 months ago

If they force east Lawrence to go into slum mode then west Lawrence might actually get enough people to shop there to make it seem like overspending out there was a good idea. LMFAO. When will they learn that old Lawrence is what people in Lawrence perfer.

Russell Fryberger 6 years, 10 months ago

Lets close schools so we can open more homeless shelters all over Lawrence. Or better yet, move the shelters out to the up and coming abandoned building so the kids being kicked out of their school will know where to go when the system fails them. My oldest daughter started her school years at WV. She is going to finish her 5th year at KU this year to be a teacher. All that hard work gets harder now because education keeps getting cut to the point that there is no teaching jobs. But we cater to the homeless and the illegals like they actually help the community. Yea close the schools and set up more shelters, call it what you want but that's the end result. And if you think there aren't any illegals working around here just go to any "temp" service and check ID's.

guess_again 6 years, 10 months ago

The WV people can go on and on and on demonizing Doll, Morgan, Loveland, the study commission, and whomever else they want, but in so doing they are seriously missing the point, and demonstrate they do not understand the larger work of the invisible hand of the state legislature.

Schools are being closed across Kansas and hundreds of teaching jobs will be eliminated this year. This isn't the work of our little 'ole school board. Read the news in most any locale you want to: Johnson County, Topeka, Wichita, or dozens and dozens of smaller communities.

Just from this mornings Topeka paper:

" . . . .Five districts in Shawnee County — Topeka Unified School District 501, Auburn-Washburn USD 437, Seaman USD 345, Shawnee Heights USD 450 and Silver Lake USD 372 — are looking at a combined $2.7 million loss in the fiscal year ending in June. The loss next fiscal year is expected to be $5.6 million.

"On Tuesday, USD 501 superintendent Kevin Singer is likely to recommend closure of elementary schools, deeper cuts to operating expenses and spending of contingency reserves to match a $4.4 million reduction.

“We could be going back 20 years in time,” board member Peg McCarthy said. . . ."

irvan moore 6 years, 10 months ago

it will be interesting to see what the new board does, will they do as promised or will they turn into a carbon copy of what we have now.

Bob Forer 6 years, 10 months ago

Its a shame that Wak was closed. I think part of the blame lies with the lack of a coordinated organizing effort by rural school patrons. Lets face it, Kansans most are too polite and sacred to organize, and with the aging and passing of old-time organizers like Ed Dutton, Ben Zimmerman and Norm Forer, there were no experienced community organizers to spearhead or advise the opposition. I suggest anyone who wants to fight the power structure in the future read Saul Alinsky's books before jumping into the fire.

Mark Currie 6 years, 10 months ago

Just a thought here. To be a superintendent or higher up administrator, you had to be a teacher at one time. Now teachers are trained to teach their subject, just like an engineering student is trained in engineering. What if to be a higher up in education you would also need possibly an MBA & some experience in the business management field ? And as for teachers being brainwashed, maybe some, but most just want to teach their classes and do it right.

xclusive85 6 years, 10 months ago

Look, to be a school administrater you have to take school finance classes. Just because USD 497 hired someone that probably didn't pass that class with any better than a C doesn't mean there aren't competent school administrators out there. USD 497 needs a competent board capable of hiring a compentent administrator.

GMom05 6 years, 10 months ago

If you vote for anyone on Tuesday that said "Honor the Task Force Recommendation" or supported Morgan's comment that 'If we don't go with the Task Force Recommendation we'll never get anyone to volunteer again," you are just asking for more of the same. Please read up on these folks. Look at their chat transcripts online. Email them, call them, whatever you need to do, but find out what they are about. If you just vote for whoever has the most signs along the side of the road you are only voting for the person with the most money and signs. PLEASE educate yourself before you vote or we're all sunk again!

workinghard 6 years, 10 months ago

I thought Masten was against closing schools but some of his remarks lately make it seem as if he has flipped over.

IBike100 6 years, 10 months ago

Scott Morgan won't be satisfied until he closes every single elementary school-and then builds new ones. I agree-the new BOE should decide. Lawrence citizens should NOT vote for any future bond issue. They spend money wastefully on two stadiums, etc. Lawrence used to be known for it's fine education. Now, it is just the opposite.

FlintlockRifle 6 years, 10 months ago

Why use the Wakarusa shool when just over the river to the north is the ole mall, with lots of parking amd even has a stop light----just an ole fellows thoughts----if that don't work use it as a homeless shelter----

DustyAcres 6 years, 10 months ago

I went to Riverside--closed. I went to Grant--closed. I was in the first 9th grade graduation class at South Jr. High--tore down and rebuilt. I don't vote for bond issues. They should have moved the administraion offices into one of the schools they closed instead of buying that building on MacDonald Drive. Saving money should start at the top and work down.

Kookamooka 6 years, 10 months ago

Selling the administration building and moving the administrators to a closed school would result in a 5 million dollar sale of their glorious site. That is a building that would be desirable to lots of businesses in that location due to the new hotel that is being built across the street. That corner could become some sort of Conference Triangle for businesses. USD497 administrators are just being selfish and hurting the kids. They should give up their luxurious offices. Or better yet...let them do their work from home and video conference. Administrators should be spending more time IN the schools anyway.

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