Archive for Saturday, April 9, 2011

Lawrence school district to plan school mergers

April 9, 2011


Lane Eisenhart is a realist when it comes to the future of her neighborhood’s beloved elementary, New York School.

She’d like to see it remain open, or perhaps even expanded, as the Lawrence school district weighs options for consolidating schools — moves intended to help grapple with declining state revenue while improving efficiency and preserving or even improving student achievement.

She knows New York is in the crosshairs and considers it understandable.

“I can see the need for consolidation — the budget cuts and all that,” said Eisenhart, mother of a current fourth-grader and an incoming kindergartner. “I realize it’s a very small school and not very efficient.

“I see consolidation as a reality, and I say it will happen. But I could be happiest in the outcome if I could be part of the process.”

Just what role folks like Eisenhart might play in consolidation decisions will start taking shape Monday night, as members of the Lawrence school board meet at 7 p.m. at district headquarters, 110 McDonald Drive.

Board members already have embraced an appointed task force’s recommendation that six elementaries — Cordley, Hillcrest, Kennedy, New York, Pinckney and Sunset Hill schools — should be considered for consolidation. Within three to five years, the task force said, the list of remaining schools should be reduced to three or four, using expected proceeds from a bond issue to finance necessary additions, expansions or new construction.

Now it’s time for board members to chart a course for such work, and they’ll have until July 1 before four of their seven members — including the two co-chairmen of the 24-member Lawrence Elementary School Facility Vision Task Force — leave office.

Vanessa Sanburn, who still has two years remaining on her board term, followed election results April 5 and understands the importance of ensuring that the public has a real say in helping shape the implementation of consolidation.

“All four candidates who won campaigned on a similar idea, that public input is important in the consolidation process,” Sanburn said. “If we were to ignore that idea, or move forward without taking seriously the recommendations from the task force that strongly encourage us to get the community members and stakeholders involved, it wouldn’t work.”

Yet Sanburn is careful to note that the input should be directed to how consolidation should occur, not whether it should occur at all. The task force studied the issue for eight months and came up with a firm recommendation: Consolidate schools.

“There’s a lot at stake,” said Sanburn, a graduate student at Kansas University. “Realistically, with the budget constraints we’re operating under, if the consolidation plan doesn’t move forward it’s possible that closures will be discussed.

“It’s not like if the bond issue doesn’t pass, we’re going to be able to keep everything the same. Change has to happen. It’s just a matter of figuring out what’s the best, positive change for the community.”

Rick Ingram, the top vote-getter in the April 5 election, understands the task force’s recommendation. But he’s careful to point out that it came from the task force, not the broader public that would be relied upon to approve the implementation of consolidation through a bond issue.

“I think if consolidation truly comes from the community, and the community can support it, then that’s consistent with the idea of community voice,” said Ingram, a professor of psychology at KU. “It comes down to the input of the community: You have to look at, what does consolidation really mean? Does it mean moving entire communities of kids together? If that’s the kind of thing, then maybe the community does support it. If it means something else, then I don’t know.”

One thing is clear, he said: “If the community doesn’t support it, it’s not going to happen. You have to listen to your constituents.”


Richard Heckler 6 years, 9 months ago

Closing schools to build schools makes no sense whatsoever.

Just because one bond issue is going away is no need to create more debt with a new bond issue.

This district has spent too many tax dollars on existing buildings in the last few years to walk away from them.

And the district basically gave East Heights away....

Bob Forer 6 years, 9 months ago

It makes lots of sense to the upper middle class families who prefer brand new schools in close proximity to their expensive homes. Come on Merrill, the monied people always get what they want at the expensive of the poor folk--you know that.

Bob Forer 6 years, 9 months ago

Typical middle class response. Blame the victim.

Katara 6 years, 9 months ago

So what prevented your "poor folks" from voting?

If the issue was really that important to them, you'd think they would actually vote on school board members that support their POV or run themselves rather than give lip service to the issue.

The easiest way to be part of the process is to vote.

notanota 6 years, 9 months ago

So tell me, which school board members campaigned on a promise of not closing any schools or only closing those in "rich neighborhoods?"

notanota 6 years, 9 months ago

Brownback didn't exactly campaign on the idea of putting the hurt on the schools, either, but it seems his campaign promises about k-12 funding weren't too important to him.

Not that I don't think voters should have known better, but the point is they could have honestly believed the rabbit in the hat promises made during the campaign. You don't get a huge number of politicians that campaign on the promise of screwing teachers out of retirement benefits and closing schools. Besides, most of the representatives elected out of Lawrence voted against these measures, and Tom Holland got the majority of Lawrence votes, even if he got nowhere with the rest of the state.

Although voters do sometimes get the representative they deserve, sometimes we get stuck with people we don't deserve (either by electing a liar or by having our votes diluted by the rest of the state), so it's not a matter of not being engaged enough in the voting process to have saved Lawrence school funding.

thelonious 6 years, 9 months ago

Sychophant states it excatly the way it is: the developers of and the people living in the wealthy new subdivisions expect new schools near their order to pay for that, the school board closes older schools in older, poorer neighborhoods, claiming that "maintenance costs of the old schools is too high" or "newer, larger schools will be more efficient", or something like that. Developers need that churn, baby - building new stuff, and re-developing old neighborhoods after the school closings ruin them. Head they win, tails they win - just like Wall Street.

Bob_Keeshan 6 years, 9 months ago

Instead of merging school buildings, we should be merging administration buildings. This county has too many school districts.

Close down the districts, not the schools.

Brian Hall 6 years, 9 months ago

While creating a Unified Douglas County School District sounds like a good idea, that would also require building and adding onto current schools. Baldwin would need to expand its schools in order to acquire students that are currently in the Wellsville and Santa Fe school districts. Lawrence would either have to expand or new schools would have to be built in order to acquire students in Perry-Lecompton and Shawnee Heights.

And as for the state having too many school districts, districts are closing all the time and merging with other districts because of lack of population. Ever hear of the Nes Tre La Go School District? It covers four counties. I'm sure there are other districts that could merge but would it be worth it based on transportation or building needs?

Richard Heckler 6 years, 9 months ago

USD 497 mismangement of funding is not being requested anywhere....

Brownback mismanagement is simply insane ....then again what should we have expected from a Washington D.C. neoconservative?

jafs 6 years, 9 months ago

How does it make any sense to consolidate 6 schools into 3 or 4, and then pass a bond issue for new construction?

I for one will almost certainly vote against a bond issue, given past experience with how the schools spend that money.

nanmo 6 years, 9 months ago

I will vote against any bond issue too!

KEITHMILES05 6 years, 9 months ago

I find it absolutely hilarious those who voted for BROWNBACK now are having their schools shut down. Gotta be careful what you wish for people!

notanota 6 years, 9 months ago

Yes, it's hilarious that the majority of Lawrence who voted for Holland is having their schools shut down.

irvan moore 6 years, 9 months ago

hopefully the people most effected by a bond issue will be smart enough to get out and vote against it but i sure wouldn't bet on it. why can't we wait for the new board to make these decisions? loveland and morgan have done enough damage to Lawrence children, neighborhoods, and schools.

George_Braziller 6 years, 9 months ago

I don't think another bond has a chance of passing. But who knows. I didn't think people were stupid enough to vote for Kobach.

KU_cynic 6 years, 9 months ago

I love the picture of Merrill and Minder.

Their hair must be done by the same stylist!

Bingoj1 6 years, 9 months ago

Is there a good reason why the school board needs that building for their offices? Why not sell it and consolidate their offices into a vacant school building? I understand that tough economic times call for cutbacks and all but why should only the students, parents, and teachers have to be the ones to bare the brunt of those cutbacks?

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