With consolidation proposals forwarded by representatives from all six Lawrence elementary schools identified for potential closure, an advisory group’s work now turns to determining which one, if any, might work in the months and years ahead.
Formal submissions from representatives of Cordley and New York schools are set to be reviewed Monday night by members of the Central and East Lawrence Elementary School Consolidation Working Group, the group charged with recommending a plan for shrinking a list of 14 elementary schools by either two or three within the next two years.
Group representatives from the other four schools identified by the Lawrence school board for potential consolidation — Hillcrest, Kennedy, Pinckney and Sunset Hill — had their ideas reviewed last week.
Now that all six of the schools have plans on the table, group members intend to ask more questions, compare notes, review research, weigh pros and cons and take into account other factors before settling on a plan to be forwarded to the school board by the end of January.
“There’s an answer in there somewhere,” said Chris Lempa, a representative from the New York School community, 936 N.Y. “I don’t think it’s fair for any one school to come up with the full answer. We’ll spend lots of hours talking about these, hashing these out. …
“We have a real good group. We’ll come up with what’s good for Lawrence, both now and in the future.”
New to the mix are proposals from Cordley and New York, neither of whose representatives settled on a single direction to pursue.
New York representatives, for example, suggest three possibilities for schools in eastern Lawrence:
• Consolidate Kennedy and New York in a new school that would be built on land southeast of 15th Street and Haskell Avenue, a proposal previously suggested by representatives from Kennedy and also offered by Cordley representatives as an option. But compiling enough land likely would mean trading property with the Boys and Girls Club of Lawrence, picking up park land from the city of Lawrence and acquiring two private homes and their lots. And at least one of the homeowners has no intention of selling.
“When we talked to the school board, they told us to come up with the utopian solution,” Lempa said. “We’re looking at our utopian solution, the best case scenario.”
• Consolidate Cordley and Kennedy on city property southwest of 19th Street and Haskell, now home to a city park, a municipal maintenance site and an area for training firefighters. “It’s a good spot, and the city does own other land,” Lempa said. Pinckney could close, sending its students to an expanded New York, which potentially could expand its lot to handle overflow parking.
• Consolidate Cordley with an expanded New York, potentially sending some students to Kennedy and Schwegler schools. Pinckney either would remain open or send its students to a consolidated Hillcrest. Either way, Kennedy and New York would remain open and be expanded and updated as necessary.
“We recognize that the work before this group will take a great deal of compromise, with input from all parties,” the New York representatives say in their written proposal.
Cordley representatives also suggest three possibilities for schools in eastern Lawrence and acknowledge that each concept comes with “significant drawbacks”:
• Consolidate Cordley and Kennedy in a new school southeast of 15th and Haskell, a plan they say could threaten New York’s viability because the new school would be within New York’s current enrollment boundaries.
• Consolidate Kennedy and New York on land southeast of 15th and Haskell, the proposal previously suggested by representatives from Kennedy and also envisioned by folks from New York. But the lot might be too small, unless adjacent properties could be acquired.
• Consolidate Cordley and New York at Cordley, 1837 Vt., a building that would be upgraded and expanded. They consider New York’s site too small for expansion and too remote for many Cordley students to walk there.
Cordley representatives recommend retaining all three consolidation candidates in central Lawrence: Hillcrest, Pinckney and Sunset Hill. Among other reasons, they say, is that any combined school in that area would be too large.
“Therefore,” Cordley’s representatives say, in their written report, “we recommend renovations to the existing schools: additions to Hillcrest and Sunset Hill to allow elimination of portables, and needed repairs to all three schools.”
The plans will be up for review during the working group’s next meeting: 7 p.m. Monday at district headquarters, 110 McDonald Drive.