Archive for Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Lawrence full-day kindergarten expanding as school cuts loom

April 12, 2011


New middle (school) names

Three down, one to go.

Monday night, members of the Lawrence school board approved new — yet familiar — names for three of the district’s junior high schools this summer:

• South Junior High will become South Middle School.

• Southwest Junior High will become Southwest Middle School.

• West Junior High will become West Middle School.

Central Junior High School’s new name won’t be decided for another couple weeks, giving the board time to study potential costs. The junior high that now occupies the building dedicated in 1923 as Liberty Memorial High School could become Central Middle School, Liberty Memorial Middle School or Central Middle School — The Liberty Memorial Building.

Broken Arrow and Sunflower schools will provide full-day kindergarten, even as the Lawrence school board broadens its consideration of potential budget cuts for the coming school year.

Monday night, board members voted to spend $132,500 to bolster kindergarten programming at the two schools, which are among seven elementaries that currently offer only half-day kindergarten.

The district came up with the money by opting to close Wakarusa Valley School next year. That move would be expected to save $487,508 — not including the additional $75,000 in “at-risk” financing and $68,422 in transportation savings that would be tapped to finance the kindergarten offerings.

The two schools getting the full-day kindergarten also happen to be the ones set to welcome all of Wakarusa Valley’s students: Kids living in the Easy Living Mobile Home Park, near Target, will go to Sunflower, and others will go to Broken Arrow.

“I really like providing a real tangible benefit to those (future) students who are giving up their school,” said Vanessa Sanburn, a school board member.

The decision left an additional $10,992 in savings beyond what already had been previously expected from the upcoming Wakarusa Valley closure, and that additional money will be used to help fill an estimated $3 million budget hole whose potential fillers soon will multiply.

Also during Monday’s meeting, board members said they wanted to see additional budget-cutting options beyond the $2.9 million in adjustments already suggested by administrators, a total that already includes the nearly $500,000 savings by closing Wakarusa Valley. Among the adjustments previously suggested:

• Spend $750,000 from the district’s contingency fund, a savings account that now has nearly $6.8 million in it. Another $250,000 would come from other reserve funds.

• Plan on spending $500,000 in budget credits, which would include revenues from gym rentals, substitute services and other operations.

• Take over management of the Lawrence Diploma Completion Program, which would provide another $215,000.

• Opt not to fill an open teaching position at each of the district’s two high schools, saving the district an estimated $106,413.

• Boost bulk purchasing operations, saving $100,000.

Increased expenses

Mark Bradford, who is in line to become board president in July, said he would like to see other budget options brought forward by administrators. Among them: Eliminate the furloughs that were imposed this year on administrators plus custodians, maintenance, IT and other classified, nonteaching personnel.

“Those should be a part of this puzzle,” Bradford said.

That would cost another $109,000, and board members also said they wanted to remain mindful of other possible increases in expenses. The Lawrence Education Association, for example, is pushing for salary increases that would equal $1.389 million overall.

“That could have a huge impact,” said Marlene Merrill, a board member leaving office in July. “Maybe I’m just worrying, but it’s a number that we have to think about.”

Numbers and values

Frank Harwood, the district’s chief operations officer, said that he would look to find at least $1.5 million in potential savings and cuts for board members to consider during an upcoming meeting.

Rick Doll, district superintendent, said that the list likely would include “looking at the ratio,” which means the number of students per teacher. Last year, the board voted to increase the average class size in the district by one student, generating a savings of about $1 million because of the decreased need for teachers.

Scott Morgan, another board member leaving office in July, had been the lone board member earlier in the meeting to vote against adding full-day kindergarten at Broken Arrow and Sunflower.

It’s not that he disagrees with the value of the program. Instead, he’s just not sure how it would measure up when considered alongside other potential cuts in the weeks ahead.

“It seems like it should be part of the mix,” Morgan said.


kueddie 2 years, 11 months ago

I am very impressed with the many comments. Nice job all of you. You guys pretty much said it all. I have never thought we should pay for baby sitting which is what full day kindergarten is. We the tax payers pay for this and on the other hand private businesses will have to cut their staff due to this increase. Too bad we just can't cut the library cost of $18m. Seems anytime the liberals wish to lay something on us taxpayers the election is always on an off election year..


tange 3 years ago

They've cut the loom? Yet another tapestry travesty.


commuter 3 years ago

Come on Merrill if you think the admin building so valuable, make them an offer to buy it. Come get off your butt and start doing something instead of talking about defending your PET projects or trying to kill things you do not like.


Kookamooka 3 years ago

I'm with merrill on that one. I still contend that there would be an interested party in the admin property. There is a new hotel going in and that corner will be conference central. That's 4 million dollars worth of asset. I still like what that one lady suggested a while back...put the administrators in trailers. It's good enough for the kids.


Richard Heckler 3 years ago

Close the current USD 497 admin building and move the admin staff and BOE meeting room to Centennial. Put the large white elegant admin building on the market and move those funds into the USD 497 cookie jar.

Why close schools?

On Feb 14 and Feb 28 the USD 497 BOE voted to approve nearly $1 million MORE dollars towards the ongoing the sports project for new bleachers and new items at Free State. In spite of hard times and how should the school district pay for a $16.5 million maintenance backlog in elementary schools?


somedude20 3 years ago

In other news, did you hear that Obama did find his birth certificate but was shocked to find out that he was in fact not born in Hawaii rather his mother was part of a secret NASA program that had her giving birth to him on the moon (long story but my book about this subject will be coming out soon). Obama is neither black nor white but really just a moonman!!


Richard Heckler 3 years ago

Things could be very interesting if what is said above is true....

Can we say outside audit please........

Perhaps some of the BOE are NOT being given straight facts perhaps instead are being manipulated.


Dave Trabert 3 years ago

FYI, USD 497 spending per-pupil only increased by 14.1% over the last five years, going from $10,101 to $11,529 according to data collected from the KSDE web site. Spending by fund is available at and can be downloaded, separated into the various cost centers and divided by the number of full time equivalent students to arrive at per-pupil costs. We (Kansas Policy Institute) did that and posted the breakdown for all districts on if you want to save yourself the trouble.

Here’s how the major categories changed over the last five years for USD 497:

Instruction +25.6% Student / Staff support -6.6% Administration +2.4% Trans., Food Svc, Maint. +3.0% Capital and Debt +11.3%

USD 497 has some of the smallest cost increases in the state (and yes, spending on student and staff support did decline). Part of the reason that spending hasn’t grown much is that their carryover cash balances (not counting capital and bond payment funds) increased by $23.1 million – from $5.3 million to $28.4 million. Most of the increase represents state and local tax dollars that weren’t spent. Some of that money can be immediately transferred and used in any manner; some can be accessed by putting less into the fund than needed and spending down part of the balance (according to KSDE).


Richard Heckler 3 years ago

New single family residential housing is very active in the East Heights district.... hmmmmmmm


Richard Heckler 3 years ago

Save $3 million on bus spending? Something to think about:

USD 497 budgets $4-4.5 million to bus students. The district is charged at a daily rate depending on how many students use the transportation.

Would a fair number of parents be willing to find other means to get your students to school IF it meant keeping all the schools open,teachers employed and retaining important subject matter/programs?

Think car pooling,family member assistance ,walking and biking.

USD 497 says it needs $3 million. Can WE come up with $3 million?

IF 75% of students were no longer bussed: 75% of $4,000,000 = $3,000,000 (million)

75% of $4,500,000 = $3,375,000


nativeson 3 years ago

Spending funds on early childhood education is a good investment. Closing grade schools will continue to be required by USD 497 given the shift in elementary students within the district. These are the types of difficult decisions that are necessary to serve all the students in the district with the fewest amount of dollars. I am sure that the board will face 2-3 more years of difficult and unpopular choices given the health of the state budget.

The situation in Topeka was not created by the current administration, but it has evolved over decades due to a funding formula that continues to highly subsidize smaller districts at the expense of larger districts. Our state now has about 30% of its school districts with less than 400 kids for the entire district. New census numbers tell the story of declining population in these areas. Without a fundemental restructuring, this issue will get worse over time. Large scale consolidations must occur, period.


ranger73 3 years ago

Wow seems like the classic bait and switch that has been pulled by the illustrious school board. Almost like they had this planned from the start. No, that would be underhanded and conniving and unethical and basically lying to everyone from the start of this whole school closure thing. Oh, wait...


2real4u 3 years ago

WV parents need to stop yammering amongst themselves about conspiracy theories and face some facts. The money for all day kindergarten follows the students, and was never included in the "savings" from closing WV. That money also has to be spent on a subset of programs that are approved by the state an/or feds for programs that can improve school performance for those kids (like Title I) that the money was parceled out for. All day kindergarten is one of those programs. This money does not get "subtracted" from the WV closing "savings"!

And send more kids to you? Other than the 60 from the trailer courts we already ship out there? You think the commuter couples who drop their kids off at Sunflower want to make their way across the dam and down to WV before turning around and heading back on the Truckway to Topeka or KC to work? Think again. And overcrowding? That's so last year. Haven't you heard? The sixth graders are moving. Our schools are practically empty now and need to become "efficient."

Face it, Waka folks, this is (as they say in the country) "the chickens coming home to roost." Keep voting for the Anthony Browns and the Sam Brownbacks and wait for the crony tax breaks to magically fund your schools. It's nice to see the usual rural voter hypocrisy ("We don't need government! Other than the extensive network of roads, and farm subsidies, and extension offices, and schools…) finally biting you in the ass. Rural areas of this state get far more in services and funding than their own tax dollars can support, but they sure love to gripe about how horrible the cities that send them money are. Well, the city voted, and even if your turnout hadn't been pathetic (Single digits? Really?) you weren't going to stop it. Not that the slow death that is the consolidation plan is any better. But if WV parents and friends really want to get their school back, they need to take a look in the mirror. Only when the reflection no longer looks like Anthony Brown, Sam Brownback, Mike O'Neal and Kris Kobach will the situation improve for them.


sunflower97 3 years ago

Why is Lawrence School Board considering expansion of kindergarten to full day when A- they are not proposing full day kindergarten for ALL schools, expanding the already inequitable kindergarten programs, B-Kindergarten isn't even required by Kansas for children to enter first grade, C-they just voted to close a school due to limited funds, and D-more cuts are expected? I sincerely do not understand the logic. School Board needs to focus on keeping the essential programs funded, not add additional services at this time. I'm with GMom05- what can we do? I've emailed, called, and written letters and I'm sure others have also.


bobberboy 3 years ago

full day school means full day day care - parents need to step up with more revenue if they want this otherwise let them come up with some other means of caring for their kids the other half of the day.


oneeye_wilbur 3 years ago

Baby sitting is expensive, so let the schools do it. My deceased 90 year old father was correct a year ago when he said the schools will take over the raising(as bad as it comes!) of children. Pre school, all day kindergarten, after school programs, remedial education when they hit college, and then social service programs to support them.

There are no parents anymore who want to share the child raising responsibilty. In my opinion, they just want to breed and drive around in SUVs and eat out. Don't believe that, look at all of the resturants around town and elsewhere full of single moms, mommies and daddies, and the kids. Why do they even bother to have a house with a kitchen in it.

Lyndon Johnson's Great Society continues.


supportourstudents 3 years ago

I realize that many people are upset by the closing of Wakarusa Valley. I can sympathize with the families who have are losing something that has been a big part of their history. I'm sure the board thought long and hard about their decision to close Wakarusa Valley and didn't make the decision light-heartedly. Those of you who complain, have you read the report that shows that Wakarusa Valley costs over $50 more PER STUDENT to run than any other school per district, due to its small classes and not running at capacity? That is money that could be divided more equally among students all over the district to provide many of the things you are so concerned about, like reducing class sizes, raising teacher salaries, or providing more access to all-day kindergarten, which research has shown has huge impacts on student achievement, not just as "all-day babysitting." Why should the students all through the district have to suffer just so less than 200 families can keep their neighborhood schools? We are ALL making sacrifices to weather the budget crunch, yet Wakarusa Valley families seem to think they are being victimized. In reality, Wakarusa Valley is a detriment to the thousands of other students all over Lawrence who have all had to contend with huge class sizes this year so that Wakarusa Valley could remain open. So, before you complain about the hard decisions that the board has to make, please look at all sides of the issue and make sure that you understand the facts of the situation.


GMom05 3 years ago

Ok, we all seem to be in agreement here. So, how do we get proactive about it? What can we do? After you've written your board members and your letters to the editor, what's next? Of course, I'm aware this starts in Topeka and I've written my letters there too. But my point is, how do we make this board and their administrators make the best choices with the funds they do have? How do we not only make ourselves heard, but make them take action that is in line with what the people of Lawrence really want? They are hearing us, they are just choosing to ignore us. Yes, I know we all voted them in there in the last 2-4 years, but I truly believe some of them have changed and no longer are listening to their constituents. I know I complain on here as much as the next person, but in trying to put the positive spin on this, what can we do??? Really, I'm open to suggestions!


Cogito_Ergo_Es 3 years ago

Shame, Shame on Doll and the USD497 School Board that have made such awful decisions. I sure hope the 4 newly elected board members will have the guts to come in here and right these wrongs. Saying we can't reverse these decisions because it's already a 'done deal', doesn't cut it with me either. If it's wrong, it's wrong, and someone needs to fix it. If it means they don't actually institute full-day kindergarten with the 'savings' from the closure of WV, then so be it. If it means they actually wait for the mold report and remediation needs of Kennedy and then decide to close it and reopen Wakarusa (for the same 500K 'savings'. BA could take them as easily as WV kids) then, so be it. If it means they close a different school that will generate a bigger savings and thus save our children from being subject to even a .5 increase in the student/teacher ratio, then so be it. I love how they are sliding that in here now. Would the task force have made the same recommendation if they knew the student/teacher ratio was going to go up? Was no one listening at the 3-28 board meeting? I know the Wakarusa group got up there and spoke on the evils of raising class sizes, they saw what Doll and the board were up to already... And when did we all of a sudden need $4M dollars not, $3M? Oh yeah, we have all these other things we want to spend money on, and closing WV isn't going to get us enough, so now we need to raise the ratio. Transparency, what??? I'm sorry, who decided to renew Doll's contract? And who put Doll and Minder and Morgan in charge of guiding the task force recommendation? Oh, yeah, our school board...why? I honestly would love to hear some of them explain this to us.


kjh 3 years ago

Just when I thought it couldn't get any more ridiculous........ The board/district in their infinite wisdom closed a school because of the huge budget shortfall, only to spend the vast majority of that money for all day kindergarten. This same astute group also opted not to fill two vacant positions at the high schools, while adding an entire grade level to each, when people all over town are telling them that the high schools are already extremely overcrowded. And finally, they are going to look at increasing class sizes yet again, despite the thousands of pages of documents from respectable studies saying how detrimental this is to our children. When does the incredibly poor decision-making stop???? I am not a teacher, but it would seem to me that if there are any experts who should be consulted about all of these things, it should be our teachers. They know what works best for our children, and they know what doesn't - like larger classes, less teachers, adding additional classes each day for the already overworked and underpaid teachers to cover, in physical spaces already overcrowded. There are areas that could be cut which would have less of an impact on our students and their teachers. And while I'm on my soapbox, VOTE TO APPROVE THE TEACHERS' SALARY INCREASE. These people have a very direct impact on our children, and they are passed over time and time again.


mom44 3 years ago

Oops, typo, "Buy a fancy play set, SAVE $500 ".... WHAT?


mom44 3 years ago

Yes, I don't understand how cutting the budget equals expanding kindergarten to full day. We are taking out $750,000 from a fund this year that will be dry in the next 6 years if we continue in this manner, and WHAT? Oh yeah, we're saving money by closing a school which may or may not actually have much of an impact on "savings", in the end. It reminds me of some of the TOYS R US advertising inserts from the paper that my kids love to peruse..... by a .... fancy play set, SAVE $500.... WHAT?


Clevercowgirl 3 years ago

Linking closing Wakarusa and providing full day kindergarten for the displaced families is a really hard package to sell to the public, much less those directly affected. Either the school board and administrators are clueless and politically inept, or this was just meant to be inflammatory to those affected. Either way, I need to get back to my garden.


Nikki May 3 years ago

While I agree that this is the WRONG way to get full day kindergarten, (I mean REALLY? Like everyone else has said, I thought we were cutting Wakarusa to save money. After it's all said and done, we are only getting $11k. Please tell me I misread that more than once.) I don't think that all day K is baby sitting. My oldest child went to Broken Arrow, which is a great school, but she had half day kindergarten. She was reading before she started and was able to go to other rooms for some enrichments at her level. If she was there all day, I think that that would have made her that much stronger of a student. She may have gotten extra time in other subjects too. At that point, she was only there for the reading groups. Now, move on to my other child. He is bright, but he was NOT advanced before kindergarten. We were fortunate to be the last of the schools to be chosen for full day K. Prairie Park. I feel that my son benefited so much from the extra time he had at school. Was it because I didn't take the time to work with him? No, it's because some kids just do better in an environment away from their parents. Before kindergarten, he knew a few letters, refused to even hold a crayon, and just had us worried. By the end of kindergarten, he was reading higher than grade level and was a great student. The social aspect was huge for him too.

As I have worked with Lawrence students for over 16 years, I have seen kids from all kinds of programs. From observations even outside of my two kids, I am a proponent of full day K. It's not babysitting, it's education. Also, if your child doesn't need full day, you can opt to do part days. I know that my son had a classmate that did that in kindergarten.

Yes, to full days, NO to trickery!

On a side note, who does this leave with half day? Sunset, Deerfield, Quail Run, Langston Hughes, and who? I guess the 7th school was Wakarusa? Originally the full day was for "at risk" schools. What's the criteria now? Are these kids now at risk because they have to be on a bus longer? You would think that Langston Hughes would get it for the ESL classes they serve.


cato_the_elder 3 years ago

Did_I_say_that, you're much too kind. What the school board did here was despicable. It was despicable because the entire process was blatantly dishonest.

What's most disgraceful is that all of the alleged savings from closing Wakarusa weren't even put into shoring up USD 497's bottom line. Many families who've been part of Wakarusa School for decades have lost their neighborhood school so that parents at two more Lawrence schools can now have the convenience of full-time day care for their kindergartners.

The intellectual dishonesty and arrogance that have been revealed in this process are truly shameful. Closing an entire school is bad enough. Closing an entire school in the guise of saving money and then immediately spending a good portion of that money on a program affecting only one grade level at two other schools, without having revealed that as the game plan from the start, is reprehensible.


Iam Tired 3 years ago

"The district came up with the money by opting to close Wakarusa Valley School next year."

Wow! The Wakarusa folks sure got hosed on this. Even the smart ones from KU were snookered by the district. Wasn't it Jessica Beeson from the task force that threw Wakarusa under the bus because the district had to close a school due to less money for budgets? And she is a whiz from KU. USD 497 pulled the wool over everyone's eyes.

"... students who are giving up their school,” said Vanessa Sanburn, a school board member."

That may make you feel better, Ms. Sanburn. But, the students did not give up their school; it was taken away in a very misleading way. Hope you feel better using your euphemisms to downplay the awful decision that you made.


Benjamin Roberts 3 years ago

"“I really like providing a real tangible benefit to those (future) students who are giving up their school,” said Vanessa Sanburn, a school board member."

Vanessa, get real. You took away Wakarusa from the community it served by promoting the lie that it must be closed due to a budget shortfall. You did this under the cover of a misled task force that was directed to close a school to meet the budget shortfall. Now you are taking what will prove to be about one third of the actual reduced cost of closing Wakarusa to have all day baby sitting at Sunflower and Broken Arrow. Not a fair trade-off, Vanessa. Wakarusa was a tangible asset to Wakarusa Children. All day K is not.


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