Archive for Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Task force leader says group hasn’t made any firm decisions about closing elementary schools

February 1, 2011


Three elementary schools are targets for potential closure next year, but the leader of the Lawrence school board isn’t yet ready to sign off on a plan that remains more than three weeks from completion.

The three schools — Cordley, Pinckney and Wakarusa Valley — emerged as potential candidates for closure, as part of deliberations for a report to be compiled by the Lawrence Elementary School Facility Vision Task Force.

The task force, appointed last year by the Lawrence school board, is charged with developing a community-based vision for the district’s elementary schools that remains mindful of dwindling financial resources.

During the task force’s meeting Monday night, members reached a consensus to study the effects of closing any of the three schools next year. The schools were identified during discussion, not any sort of formal vote, by the 19 members attending at district headquarters.

Also through consensus, task force members said they would anticipate recommending one or two of the schools close next year. Such recommendations are due to board members by the end of this month.

After the meeting, Rich Minder, school board president, said he wasn’t ready to concede that any of the potential closures would make it into the task force’s final report.

“Stay tuned,” said Minder, a co-chairman of the task force. “We’ll have to see what happens that the next meeting.”

Several task force members had expressed concerns about recommending a closure or even consolidation of Cordley, while Pinckney also had some support. No task force members made a case to keep Wakarusa Valley open, although earlier discussions had raised concerns about the potential for increased transportation time by bus for students.

The next task force meeting is set to run from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Feb. 14 at district headquarters, 110 McDonald Drive. It would end just before a separate meeting of the full school board begins.

The task force then would have time to meet again Feb. 21 and, perhaps, Feb. 28 before presenting its finished report to board members, as expected, Feb. 28.


Dawn Shew 7 years, 4 months ago

What happened to New York? Are we so afraid of the Save our Schools people that we aren't going to talk about the schools that were on the table last year? According to the USD 497 web site, both Cordley and Pinckney serve more students than New York, even AFTER the shift of Kennedy students to New York which resulted in a major hassle for those Kennedy parents.

It's time for us to do what needs to be done-- even if it angers some of the more vocal, entitled members of our community. No one likes it. But cutting services to all students so that a smaller number of students aren't inconvenienced doesn't make any sense. It makes more sense to close a school, or two, or three even, to keep the educational offerings the same or even better. Not to lower the standard for everyone so that S.O.S. doesn't start marching in the streets.

maudeandcecil 7 years, 4 months ago

I'd hardly call New York families "entitled". That's just absurd and borderline offensive.

Frankly, you're off base on several points. The task force appears to support closure of at least one school (Wakarusa Valley, Cordley, Pickney) and consolidation of at least 2 and likely 4 schools (New York, Kennedy, Hillcrest, and Sunset Hill). Determining which schools are involved in consolidation/closure is not as easy as which one currently has the lowest enrollment, which I think is your point about NY; there are other factors to consider: ie) condition of building, location, educational programs, community impact, etc . If you're really interested and not just ranting, I recommend you take a close look at task force documents and attend both school board and task force meetings to get informed.

This issue has moved beyond SONS' march, you should too. The community is trying to come together & build consensus on what is best for the diverse needs of our kids.

Synjyn Smythe 7 years, 4 months ago

What happened to New York? Are you serious? "Minder, a co-chairman of the task force," is owner of Delaware Commons! He can't get full occupancy at Delaware Commons! He can't pay the taxes on Delaware Commons! If New York school closes, the value of Delaware Commons goes into the toilet!! Does that answer your question, patterte?

kugrad 7 years, 4 months ago

I think a far more realistic view of why New York hasn't been short-listed is that the task force conducted a facility review. There was a fire at NY about 1994 or so. After that, they built a new gymnasium, library, and computer lab. The physical facility, while generally far from new, is in better shape than several of our schools. Also remember that the facility may remain open but not be an elementary school. No one knows at this point. As for SynjynSmythe's comments, that theory is just absurd. Why don't you go to the next task force meeting and make that comment out loud in public? You won't, because you haven't got the nerve. You also know it is ludicrous.

Synjyn Smythe 7 years, 4 months ago

If you read LJW, you already know all this stuff:

Rich Minder is one of Delaware Commons’ “original organizers.”

“Rich Minder is treasurer of the Delaware Street Commons group.”

“Minder, president of the Lawrence school board, also is one of six members of Lawrence Cohousing Group LC, developer of the Delaware Street Commons . . . .Of the project’s 23 condominium homes on 2.2 acres, six remain unsold. The development group owes Douglas County $22,747 in taxes, the total left unpaid on those six for the 2009 tax year. Another $1,942 in taxes had been delinquent on a seventh property, but that bill was paid when the property sold last month.”

Without the school a stone's throw away from Delaware Commons, the value of the property to occupants with kids (the preferred tenants) goes to naught! Thus, the value of the investment goes to naught along with it!

If A+B=C, then C-B=A!!!!!!!!!

Mike Myers 7 years, 4 months ago

patterte, FYI Cordley has always been the most vocal force behind SOS and there are Cordley parents on the task force so your assertion that the potential directions noted in the story are based on fear are completly unfounded. You should get more engaged in the debate. If you were you would know that there are many, many other issues at stake than simply existing school population. You might also know that the status of both New York and Kennedy are still unsure and that the story posted here has facts that were cherry-picked to stir things up. The task force is charged with a long range plan and the story above is only about the first stage of the long-range plan which is most definitely going to be about consolidation, bond issues, and construction.

mfagan 7 years, 4 months ago

There are two "long-range" projects gaining traction at the task force level, and set for further study before being considered by the task force Feb. 14: consolidating New York and Kennedy into a single school, and consolidating Hillcrest and Sunset Hill into a single school. The idea would be that such consolidations would be part of a bond issue. I addressed the consolidation plans, etc., in an earlier story: Any decisions from the task force would go to the Lawrence school board as recommendations, likely Feb. 28. Hope this helps... - Mark Fagan, schools reporter

Synjyn Smythe 7 years, 4 months ago

How about an article on the mold at Kennedy?

irvan moore 7 years, 4 months ago

when will it ever end? instead of closing schools people who have school age children or who are planning families need to move into neighborhoods with schools instead of expecting schools to be built in an area that doesn't have schools. the time and money spent on this argument every year is absurd. this election ask every person running for the board what they will do.

Stephen Roberts 7 years, 4 months ago

Why??? People can't live where they want??? So you are going to tell people where they should live??? Heck I have neighbors who send their kids to catholic schools - are you going to tell them that they have to send their kids to public schools???

If you want to dictate where people live, should people who do not have kids have to move to another part of town, so people with children can move in???

Lawrence has too many elementary schools. It is too bad that one or more of these small schools will close.

jafs 7 years, 4 months ago

People can live where they want.

However, if someone with kids moves into an area without schools, and then expects us to build schools near their home, that seems a bit odd to me.

If I were researching areas to live and had children going to school, I would look for areas with decent schools nearby as part of that research.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 4 months ago

Mark Fagan

Will taxpayers be afforded the opportunity to vote on the bond issues?

Richard Heckler 7 years, 4 months ago

Closing schools to build new schools makes no sense.

conservative 7 years, 4 months ago

Merrill you couldn't be more wrong. If they close two older smaller schools that require substantial upgrades to meet current requirements and build a new larger school they save lots of money in the long run. Less costly upkeep, 1 principal salary versus 2 plus not doubling up on all the rest of the support staff. And the people that currently have to go to multiple schools to see students will spend less time in cars and more time in classrooms.

kugrad 7 years, 4 months ago

Conservative is correct Merrill. I know it is counter-intuitive, but that's the way it works. Experience has shown the the maximum cost efficiency can be reached by operating elementary schools that can hold 450-500 students. There is no consensus, and precious little data, on the best size for instruction of children.

Synjyn Smythe 7 years, 4 months ago

While it is more cost-efficient to pack more sardines into each can, will the presentation and task be impacted? School kids are not sardines. While larger class sizes save money, they don't help kids learn. Lots of data on it:

Dawn Shew 7 years, 4 months ago

My kids go to Kennedy. I am not immune to the changes, nor am I ignorant of the plans to consolidate or close schools. We took on a new student population, structural changes to the building, a loss of playground space for older children, and a new principal.

Everybody wants to protect what's theirs, I get that.

What gets sad is that many people put their own issues ahead of the good of the greater Lawrence student community. Their political issues, their financial issues, their personal issues. Where was this outrage when many schools (including Kennedy) did not meet AYP in one or both subjects last year? Where is this outrage as kids go to school in trailers? (Because large schools are their own conundrum when there is no facility to house them.) The issues go on and on.

I want my kids to get a good education, and I believe they are getting that. I think we can do better. We have to do better. And that's going to mean sacrifices from everyone-- west side AND east side of town.

funkdog1 7 years, 4 months ago

The west side of town is sacrificing as well. Our class sizes are far larger that what you have on the east side of town. Our average class size is now somewhere between 18 & 26 kids. I believe I'm not talking out of my behind when I say that Quail run has 3 sections of the 4th grade that have over 30 kids each and Deerfield lost at least 4 teachers last year. Our gym teacher, who was just out of college, bright, full of engergy and great with the kids was fired simply because she had no seniority and the kids really miss her.

funkdog1 7 years, 4 months ago

Okay, thanks. I'll check that out. I was under the misguided impression that class sizes on the east side were around 15-18 kids per class.

kugrad 7 years, 4 months ago

No, that is not the case. The class sizes are in the same range. Sometimes a principal might decide to have 1 section of a grade level have fewer than the other section and have all the kids who need special services in the class with lower numbers in order to deal with a reduction in SPED staff, but overall numbers are about the same.

The staffing ratio should be different from east to west side though, to deal with the greater racial and economic diversity on the east side. Different is sometimes fair.

Raiden 7 years, 4 months ago

In exchange for not closing an elementary last year the ratio of students to teachers was bumped up by one.....however how this affected each school depended on the number of free/reduced lunch students-those schools were less affected by the ratio increase. Kids from impoverished backgrounds, most commonly, have more severe learning challenges and require considerably more academic support. Schools with fewer numbers of free/reduced lunch had a larger increase in class size. This is not to say that children in these schools aren't beset by learning challenges. There are exceptions at either end of this spectrum, however stats clearly indicate higher needs with poverty so the increased ratio had a greater impact on schools in more "affluent" parts of town.

Having said that I can personally attest to the fact that the classroom sizes even in these higher needs schools is also high. Rather than become competitive over which schools ought to be more deserving of lower class sizes, part of the task forces "vision" is to find ways to diminish that problem because they, along with all of us, know that large class sizes make teaching and learning more difficult.

And we have to look at the hidden issue which is that humans generally don't like change and next year we'll be facing lots of changes in our district: change to middle schools and high schools; closing of one or two elementary schools with new attendance boundaries being drawn. This will impact families in myriad ways, cause job loss for a lot of good people, disrupt cohesive and proactive school cultures, and many of our kiddos will be facing new schools, new staff, new peer groups, and visa versa. Plus the continued anxiety of future school consolidation which means more distance from the comfort of neighborhood schools and continued impact on job loss and the realities of more change.

There are many arguments to be made on many levels. The reality is that change is coming and we have to figure out how to work together in ways that will make these changes less difficult for our kids instead of arguing about who is more or less deserving. The focus and our energy should be spent on how to facilitate our kids through these changes and made these transitions as smooth as possible for them.

Christine Pennewell Davis 7 years, 4 months ago

I say no, will not have a child in elem. next year but I have been through this twice already enough is enough so stop. and funk not saying you guys are better off but all the schools are cramed this year. Am sorry to hear kids lost a teacher they love that is just not right. But just so you know my daughter has over 30 in her class and there is only one 5th and 6th grade class at her school and the fourth has 2 classes at about 25 each all I can say is as much as I did not like the 6th grade move to jr high it is a good thing space wise next year for the elem. schools with all the cuts. This whole deal is wrong on many levels and it seems to me the kids are the ones that lose in these games.

funkdog1 7 years, 4 months ago

Yes, you're right. The kids are the ones who are paying for politcal b.s. and it's just not right.

beaujackson 7 years, 4 months ago

BOA and 497 administration motives have been suspect ever since they closed Centennial rather than Cordley.

They NEVER admitted their plan to use Centennial for LHS ball parks.

Closing Centennial was a nail in the coffin for families with children in a large area of central Lawrence.

BOA has been a lackey for the administration for too long. The tail has wagged the dog - and taxpayers.

Too many lies by administrators & BOA "sports-nuts" have left a sour taste in Lawrence taxpayers, and too many neighborhoods that have been ruined by their bad decisions.

Stephen Roberts 7 years, 4 months ago

beaujackson- another major reason Cordley was spared was Austin Turney. H fought to make Weaseman the supt, without any type of real search. So when ordley was pu on the block, he made sure he Weaseman to make Cordley look less attractive to close.

Wayne Propst 7 years, 4 months ago

Millions spent on football feilds....racists unable to make a deal with Haskell....apartide agenda to make Free State look like suburban school to sell tract houses....that money could have been voted as a new bond issue.... what a waste...and houses being built...

kugrad 7 years, 4 months ago

Um, with all due respect, Huh? What the heck are you talking about?

CNA_Resident 7 years, 4 months ago

I would like to know if the bigger question of feeder school closings/combining/etc. affecting high school enrollment has been addressed? I am unsure how many of the proposed schools under consideration feed to Lawrence High, and how many feed to FreeState?

Is there a flowchart showing the subsequent paths each of the remaining elementaries and middle schools into the two high schools?

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