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Archive for Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Kennedy School representative on school consolidation: ‘Pick us’

December 6, 2011, 1:02 a.m. Updated December 6, 2011, 9:25 a.m.

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Dawn Shew, a member of the Central and East Lawrence Elementary School Consolidation Working Group, points out a potential new boundary — which would be Ninth Street to the North — for a new school that would combine the bulk of Kennedy and New York schools at a site near the former home of East Heights School. Shew made the presentation during the Monday, Dec. 5, 2011 meeting of the working group, advocating for a new school. "If we are going to be consolidated, this would be ideal for us," she said.

Dawn Shew, a member of the Central and East Lawrence Elementary School Consolidation Working Group, points out a potential new boundary — which would be Ninth Street to the North — for a new school that would combine the bulk of Kennedy and New York schools at a site near the former home of East Heights School. Shew made the presentation during the Monday, Dec. 5, 2011 meeting of the working group, advocating for a new school. "If we are going to be consolidated, this would be ideal for us," she said.

As representatives from three schools targeted for potential consolidation pointed out the strengths of their school’s programs, advisability of their locations and community strengths of their programs — all with an eye toward justifying each school’s very survival — Dawn Shew wasn’t having any of it.

Go ahead and close our school, she said. Consolidate. Build anew. Add students. Bolster programs.

With the district looking for help choosing which schools to close and refinement of projects to propose in a future bond issue, the representative from Kennedy School wasn’t about to let a good opportunity go to waste.

“We feel like if consolidation’s going to happen, pick us,” Shew said Monday night, outlining plans that would combine Kennedy and New York schools in a new, larger building at or near the former East Heights School, 1430 Haskell Ave. “Let it be us. Let us have a new facility that’s top of the line, state of the art technology, nice new playgrounds. …

“We would rather see that opportunity come to fruition than miss out.”

Kennedy’s plan was among four proposals discussed during Monday night’s meeting of the Central and East Lawrence Elementary School Consolidation Working Group, an advisory panel established by the Lawrence school board to devise a plan for cut a list of six schools — Cordley, Hillcrest, Kennedy, New York, Pinckney and Sunset Hill — down to three or four within the next two years.

Monday night’s discussion reviewed proposals forwarded by Hillcrest, Kennedy, Pinckney and Sunset Hill representatives. During the working group’s next meeting, Dec. 19, group members plan to discuss separate scenarios to be proposed during the coming week by

representatives from Cordley and New York schools.

The working group’s recommendations are due to the school board by the end of January. Board members are responsible for making decisions about which schools to consolidate, which projects to include in a bond issue and which boundaries to adjust, as necessary.

Monday night, members of the working group didn’t make any decisions about any particular plan, other than to explore representatives’ reasoning behind some of the suggestions.

Among topics and issues discussed Monday night:

• Hillcrest representatives explained that their school could be expanded to become a three-section school — that’s three classes at each grade level — on the existing site at 1045 Hilltop Drive, an area others previously have described as too small. “It’s ample. It’s adequate. It’s level,” said Dennis Hill, a Hilltop representative. Added Leslie Newman, another Hilltop representative, who noted that an architect who has a student at Hilltop had helped draw up a possible new floor plan, for a project that could be completed in 15 months: “We’re excited. This is possible. This is doable on our site.” Hillcrest representatives originally specified, in their written proposal, that additional students would come from Sunset Hill. Monday night, Newman told group members that in addition to Sunset Hill, "we have to look at the other schools we share borders with as well." Among others, the school shares borders with Cordley and Pinckney.

• Kennedy representatives would favor closing Hillcrest and having those students move to an expanded Sunset Hill. A new building combining Kennedy and New York, they say, would be best suited for property at the southeast corner of 15th Street and Haskell Avenue, on property currently owned by the Boys and Girls Club of Lawrence, the city of Lawrence and some private property owners — at least one of whom has stated, unequivocally, that he doesn’t intend to sell his home or his 5 acres of land to the district. “That’s not our job, thankfully,” Shew said, of the working group’s role in proposing plans, not acting upon them. “Maybe he would enjoy having a school built all around him, like a loving embrace? I don’t know.”

• Sunset Hill representatives envision expanding their school on their 9-acre site, which is adjacent to West Middle School. “This is not a time or environment to build an entirely new facility,” said Daisy Wakefield, a Sunset Hill representative. Sunset Hill would welcome students from Hillcrest, while Hillcrest would remain open and take in students from Pinckney, which would close largely because of its inability to handle expansion at its own site.

• Pinckney representatives suggest expanding Sunset Hill and closing Hillcrest, which could become a site for early-childhood or Boys and Girls Club programs in part because of the presence of the Ryan Gray Playground for All Children. Kennedy and New York would combine in a new two-story building at the former East Heights site, given the lot’s relatively small size.

Each proposal brought up questions and concerns, ones certain to be explored in the coming weeks.

About the only idea that drew universal support came at the end of the discussion, after nearly two hours of exploring ideas and concepts and boundary issues and programming needs and other topics.

“Maybe we should just keep our own schools open,” said Mike Myers, a representative from New York School.

Comments

Benjamin Roberts 2 years, 7 months ago

“Maybe we should just keep our own schools open,” said Mike Myers, a representative from New York School.

Yeah, that was what Wakarusa parents said.

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guess_again 2 years, 7 months ago

Well, I remember what DIST said.

Using this forum DIST engaged in serial anonymous personal attacks on the motivations of Board members and administration, conveniently forgetting that this funding crisis is occurring in school districts across the state, affecting dozens and dozens of schools and hundreds of teachers and support personnel.

It would have been humorous if it wasn't so pathetic.

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guess_again 2 years, 7 months ago

Well, I remember what DIST said.

Using this forum DIST engaged in serial anonymous personal attacks on the motivations of Board members and administration, conveniently forgetting that this funding crisis is occurring in school districts across the state, affecting dozens and dozens of schools and hundreds of teachers and support personnel.

It would have been humorous if it wasn't so pathetic.

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SynjynSmythe 2 years, 7 months ago

Two schools in this District are not salvagable w/o spending more $ than it would take to tear them down and start over: Kennedy and Cordley. Everything else is fixable. This has not changed since the inception of the charade. Closing Wakarusa was stupid, as stupid as not closing Cordley!

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George_Braziller 2 years, 7 months ago

I've been in every single school building in the district as part of my former job and agree about Cordley. The original building is a collection of under-sized rooms that don't function well, it has had addition upon addition, upon addition, there's very limited parking, and the location makes even getting into and out of the property a problem.

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brutus 2 years, 7 months ago

This is a big myth. There is very little wrong with Kennedy that a new roof and asphalt parking lot won't fix. Kennedy has everything a 3-section school needs. Cordley is another story. The old part needs to come down.

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conservative 2 years, 7 months ago

This is why representatives for the schools should be observers and advisors, but not the ones tasked with actually making reccomendations. The financial reality is we need to close some schools and with most members offering up any possibility other than their own school, this task force will not come to concensus.

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aryastark1984 2 years, 7 months ago

This is fiction. Elementary schools are dirt cheap. Closing an elementary school will ultimately save very little money. Kennedy and NY have an extremely high % of low income kids and as a district, we need to do a better job of meeting those kids educational needs.

Over the years there have been reoccurring questions about the air quality at Kennedy. So, if Kennedy (and maybe NY) families believe that they would benefit from a new school, then I think that this is a reasonable request. But, don't hold your breath in terms of saving money.

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aryastark1984 2 years, 7 months ago

I am really confused. If memory serves, the district told this group that it needed to leave cluster sights intact. In fact Kim B. stated in pretty direct terms that cluster sites (for ELL) were MORE EFFICIENT than spreading ELL programs into neighborhood schools. I know the reps from Pinkney and Kennedy know this. Why then did they ask for direction from the district and board and then promptly ignore what they said?

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puckstah 2 years, 7 months ago

If I recall, the district was 1million in the black this year. So the claims of a financial crisis are quite possibly a bit of a red herring.

If Brownie has his way with school funding, and the costs of basic education funding is placed upon local communities, guess where the financial burden will be when we compound that with additional mill levy for a bunch of new, huge schools? Our pockets.

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Mike Myers 2 years, 7 months ago

I don't think anyone has suggested building a bunch of new schools. I've only heard about one new school being suggested along with some expansions and upgrades to others. And where else is the money supposed to come from besides our pockets? Are we supposed to print it or something? Do you think we should just continue to let our kids be taught in rooms with water dripping from the walls and antique heating systems? Geez... they are trying to address inefficiencies and a huge maintenance backlog. Spending money on kid's education is about the only thing that should be really simple to understand.

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aryastark1984 2 years, 7 months ago

I think puckstah is trying to make the same point that I have made in the past, if Brownback and his ilk decide to decrease state level funding for schools, but compensate by lifting the cap on the Local Option Budget (LOB), then we might need (0r benefit) from an increase in the mill levy to pay operational costs. That would require a vote. I think it would be tough in these economic times to go to Lawrence residents and ask them to raise the mill levy for BOTH operating costs (LOB) AND to build a new school (as well as repair the remaining schools-lets not forget that ALL the east side schools have been victims of "demolition by neglect"). The reality is that all of these schools could be repaired for less than the cost of a single new school. If we are given the choice, I would rather my tax dollars went to pay teachers than build buildings.

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puckstah 2 years, 7 months ago

aryasstark1984 - YES!!!!!!! Thanks for interpreting for me!

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dshew 2 years, 7 months ago

Dawn Shew here, Kennedy rep quoted above. Just for clarification: Kennedy is not unsalvageable. It needs a new roof. It has been slated for a new roof for three years running, and then deferred. All buildings need to be re-roofed on occasion. No doubt there are other repairs that are necessary to our school and all of the others-- many of them have serious leaking problems, for example. Others are not ADA compliant.

Second, to answer to air quality: that I know of, Kennedy has been tested twice for air quality in the past 3 years. The first time, it was at the behest of our principal, to insure that the school was safe for her staff and students. No harmful levels of mold or anything else found. The second time it was tested, it was as a result of last year's task force. No harmful levels of mold or anything else found. It DID have more mold than the other school tested-- Langston Hughes. This is not surprising, as Kennedy is 50 years older, and ALL buildings get some mold eventually. To my knowledge, none of the other schools in this group have been tested for mold, at least not as a part of this process. It is possible-- even likely, as many buildings are older-- that there are levels of mold and other air contaminants in any of the other buildings.

I can't say that I know whether or not closing any of these schools will result in the long-term savings the district is hoping for. However, closing/consolidating schools is the committee's charge, and it is in that spirit that the Kennedy group stepped forward.

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abcd123 2 years, 7 months ago

Fine, Kennedy, so you don't like your building and don't mind if it is closed. Why do you have to drag New York along with you? It seems that Cordley is the clear target for closure, if addressing facility issues is of any importance. Also, I've posted this elsewhere, but think it is an important and possibly little known bit of information: when the school district builds a new facility, or a new addition to an existing facility, the pupils attending that school, or using that addition, generate 25% more state aid (for a period of two years) than if they remain in an existing school. So, if base state aid is $4012 per pupil, the district would receive $1,604,800 for a group of 400 students in their existing school(s). If the district builds a new school for 400 kids, it receives $2,006,000. To make a long story short, USD 497 has a clear incentive to build big new schools, whether that's what is best for our kids or not.

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puckstah 2 years, 7 months ago

abcd123 - This is something I haven't heard before. Can you share a link for more specifics about this state funding for new or amended buildings?

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abcd123 2 years, 7 months ago

Yes, I learned this from USD 497's Form 150, which can be found here: http://www.ksde.org/Portals/0/School%20Finance/budget/Budget_at_a_Glance/11-12_Summary/F150-497-2012.pdf. (If the link doesn't work, go to www.ksde.org, then School Finance, then Quick Links, then Budget Information, then USD Budget, and then scroll down to USD 497's Form 150.) This form is, apparently, what KS school districts use to claim state aid, with a variety of formulas for different situations. The section that pertains to enrollment weighting for new facilities is on the last page of the document.

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aryastark1984 2 years, 7 months ago

Veeerrrrry Interesting. I have been banging my head against the wall trying to figure out why the district has been so he!! bent on closing elementary schools despite the dubious and ever evolving rational, excess capacity (oops we were wrong about that), budget crisis (well, we ended last year with a surplus. . . and we still don't know what Topeka is going to do). But, we MUST close elementary schools!!

Here is another dirty little secret that they aren't telling you, this extra money WILL NOT go to elementary students. The cost per (elementary) pupil is far below (<4,000) the cost per pupil for middle and high schools (I am sorry I can't find the link to document this). So, basically the youngest and the poorest students in our city are being exploited to fund the students in middle and high schools. This is shameful.

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Richard Heckler 2 years, 7 months ago

Or no taxes need to increase and use all of the existing schools USD 497 owns. Yes do not build new larger schools that in fact may not save USD 497 one thin dime.

I have strong reservations on this "planning for the future" agenda when no one has any idea what the future will bring. Lawrence has dropped over 5000 in population according to local news.

Some things 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.

*Parents would you be willing to find other means to get your students to school IF it meant keeping all the schools open, allowing more students to walk to school and retaining important subject matter/programs?

Think car pooling,family members ,walking and biking.

USD 497 says it needs $3 million. Can WE come up with $3 million? Possibly if we make sure we get our kids to school with fewer buses.

Next: How should the school district pay for a $16.5 million maintenance backlog in elementary schools? 61% said pay as they go, slowly if needed. This can be accomplished without a bond issue or increasing taxes. It would require devoting $7,000,000 a year for 3 years from existing capital outlay tax dollar sources. This is prudent spending.

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Richard Heckler 2 years, 7 months ago

Next: *What do you think of a proposed 3-mill property tax increase for Lawrence schools? 74% said it is too much. This money cannot be used for salaries or operations.

*Teacher Salary Support Would you favor a sales tax increase to provide more money for Lawrence teacher salaries? 80% or 4,204 said yes. ( If we are allowed to do so) - very interesting. Thus far state does not allow or must get quite creative.

The Lawrence school district has paid $1.73 million to purchase a prime piece of property that would be prominent along the proposed route of the South Lawrence Trafficway. At $22,763.16 per acre for unimproved property. NOT a good deal!

At their Oct. 26 meeting, school board members approved the purchase of 76 acres of farm and pasture ground southeast of Lawrence. The property, near the intersection of East 1750 and North 1300 roads, would be just west of where the South Lawrence Trafficway would connect with the existing Kansas Highway 10 east of Lawrence. (Hmmmmmmmm is this pork barrel spending? Can we say more housing projects))

School district leaders said they did not have a firm plan for the property - ( Why was it bought?)

This purchase cost USD 497 taxpayers $22,763.16 per acre. This was not a good price for land for a new school building. The seller has been appointed to the committees pushing the closing of schools in favor of building new buildings.

if anything developers should be donating land because they know parks and public schools nearby make their projects far more valuable as taxpayers are forced to be defacto investors without the dividend check.

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Richard Heckler 2 years, 7 months ago

School Priorities

To the editor: (Oct 2009)

Let me get this right. The Lawrence school district approved funds for two sports stadiums to be built ($400,000 each) and yet Superintendent Rick Doll discusses teachers not having items they need (Journal-World, page 1A, Oct. 19)? What’s wrong with this picture?

I assumed children went to school to be educated, not to play sports in luxurious facilities. After reading Chuck Woodling’s description of the Free State facilities in his Oct. 20 column, I was disappointed. I understand some of the funds for Free State came from a private donor. Fine. But to me it seems like it’s a matter of “keeping up the with Joneses” and perpetuating a misconception of what is really important in life.

I know sports are important to a lot of kids. Playing a sport does benefit our youths in several ways. Realistically, how many kids are going to play sports professionally? Or even in college? Yet every child needs a solid education. To my way of thinking, the priorities are turned around. It’s quite unsettling.

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New buildings do not improve performance nor necessarily attract new business. What does attract new business and new long term economic growth is an excellent public school education system so I read. We have enough buildings and as far as I know excellent teachers. This should be the focus NOT the constant "push and shove" to spend tax dollars on new buildings that are not necessary. This threatening tactic is quite unfriendly and bordering on extortion.

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grammaddy 2 years, 7 months ago

So the plan is to put ALL of the Eastside kids in one school? Figures.

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Clevercowgirl 2 years, 7 months ago

+1. And, of course, be very fluid of your "facts".

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