The Lawrence Elementary School Facility Vision Task Force isn’t all about recommending closure of schools or simple consolidation of schools. There’s also talk of emphasizing professional development for teachers, ridding elementary schools of portable classrooms, and remembering that while relatively small class sizes are nice, there are several other factors that have a “greater impact” on student achievement.
Among them: high-quality classroom teachers, strong student-teacher relationships, full-day kindergarten, early-childhood programs and substantial parental involvement.
Members of the task force plan to meet at least two more times this month, before making their final recommendations Feb. 28 to members of the Lawrence school board. The next meeting is set for 5:30 p.m. Feb. 14 at district headquarters, 110 McDonald Drive.
Task force members are moving closer to consensus on some of the major issues facing the group. When it comes to closures and consolidations, the task force anticipates recommending:
• Closure next year of either one or two of three schools identified for further study: Cordley, Pinckney and Wakarusa Valley.
• Consolidation, within three to five years, of Kennedy and New York schools in eastern Lawrence, and of Hillcrest and Sunset Hill schools in central Lawrence. Students would be expected to attend either new or expanded and renovated schools; the focus generally has been on building a new school in eastern Lawrence, where the former East Heights School now is used by the Boys & Girls Club, and at Sunset Hill, which is considered a large enough site to accommodate expansion.
With such large issues being weighed, it’s sometimes easy for outsiders to forget that the task force is looking at many long-range issues, especially as they relate to the district’s existing and expected financial resources.
All recommendations are to be formulated through a lens that includes a clear view of 12 goals established through months of task force meetings. That’s the vision task force members will be scheduled to use Feb. 14, when they review specific projections and other data related to the potential closures and consolidations.
Also from the task force: One concept that has been discussed in conjunction with consolidating Kennedy and New York schools is preserving New York as something new: a “dual-language” school.
Rich Minder, who is president of the Lawrence school board and co-chairman of the task force, has discussed the concept often, both in small-group meetings of task force subcommittees and during larger meetings of the entire task force.
A group known as Multilingual Lawrence — check its page on Facebook — has been working to raise the profile of such a movement, to create a “dual-language” immersion school in the district. At such a school, each class would have a mix of native English speakers and non-native speakers.
Depending on the school, students would receive anywhere from 50 percent to 90 percent of their instruction in the target language — Spanish, as envisioned by Multilingual Lawrence — and the rest in English, said Kendra Kuhlman, a member of Multilingual Lawrence.
As described by Minder, students throughout the Lawrence district would have the choice to attend a dual-language school, should one be established. The school then would become a magnet of sorts, to draw students and their families into a strong neighborhood without having to live there and to provide investment in an area of town that both needs and deserves it.
Multilingual Lawrence has scheduled a showing of “Speaking in Tongues,” a documentary film that follows four students and their families as their encounter both challenges and delights of becoming fluent in two languages.
The showing is set for 6:30 p.m. Feb. 21 at Liberty Hall, 644 Mass., and a panel discussion is scheduled after the show to address dual-language immersion programs and how such programs could work in Lawrence.
Two students from schools in Lawrence are expanding their horizons at Kansas University.
The students — Jeff Miller, a graduate of Bishop Seabury Academy; and Sarah Stern, a graduate of Free State High School — are among 15 inaugural Global Scholars, a new KU program that recognizes students with demonstrated interest in global and international studies, plans for studying abroad and potential for continued high academic achievement and leadership.
The students come from disciplines throughout the university. Miller is a sophomore in Latin American studies and anthropology, while Stern is a sophomore in journalism and Latin American studies.
As scholars, the two will participate in a three-hour seminar taught during the spring semester; be paired with a faculty mentor with similar interests for the remainder of his or her undergraduate studies; and present research on global and international studies during the spring semester of his or her senior year.
Miller will be paired with John Hoopes, associate professor of anthropology. Stern will work with Melissa Birch, associate professor of business.
The first Global Scholars also will complete in “Truth in a Global Society,” an interdisciplinary seminar taught by Brent Steele, associate professor of political science. They also will receive a $1,000 scholarship to be applied toward a KU-approved study abroad program.
Miller is the son of Ann and Byron Miller. Stern is the daughter of Joan and George Stern.
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