Archive for Friday, February 11, 2011

First Bell: District to detail potential effects of possible school closures; Virtual School student reads from own winning book; board to consider extending bus contract

February 11, 2011


Some education-oriented items from around the area:

Lawrence school district officials are busy analyzing how closing one or two of three elementary schools in Lawrence — Cordley, Pinckney and Wakarusa Valley — would affect students, the district and others next year and beyond.

The three schools have been identified by members of the Lawrence Elementary School Facility Vision Task Force as candidates for recommended closure.

Just what affect such moves would have will be the subject of detailed analyses to be reviewed Monday during the task force’s next meeting, which begins at 5:30 p.m. at district headquarters, 110 McDonald Drive.

Each of six scenarios — three involving the closure of one school, and then three that would pair schools for closure — will be analyzed to provide requested information, said Rick Doll, district superintendent. Specifically:

• New boundaries, described by Doll as “rough, proposed boundary changes,” that would determine where displaced students would go to school.

• Projections for how such shifts would affect class sizes in schools receiving additional students.

• Projections for total savings, separated into two categories: staff savings, as in reductions in the number of teachers; and administrative and operational savings, accounting for fewer principals, secretaries, utilities needs and other expenses.

• Possible effects on English as a Second Language instruction, especially considering that Cordley is one of two “community” sites in the district for such ESL programs.

• Possible effects of special education, particularly autism programs.

• Effects on bus patterns.

Task force members are nearing the end of their appointed work, to “recommend a community vision and plan for the school district’s elementary facilities that reflect the varied community and educational values and how to best reflect those values given the restraints of current and anticipated district resources.”

Recommendations are due to the board by the end of the month. Task force members anticipate making their formal presentation to the board Feb. 28.


Abi Elmore, a third-grader at the Lawrence Virtual School, won second place in this year’s Young Authors Contest, sponsored by Kansas Public Telecommunications Service Inc., a.k.a. Kansas Public Television.

Who may not be able to own a hard-cover copy of her book — “Rondo” — just yet, you still can enjoy the content: There’s a video of Abi herself reading her book, while plenty of her own illustrations grace the screen.


First Student Inc. would remain the district’s provider of bus transportation, under a proposed contract extension up for approval Monday night by the school board.

The five-year extension would take effect at the end of the district’s current contract with First Student, which ends June 30.

The proposal reflects depressed economic conditions. First Student would decrease its rates by 0.6 percent for the first year, then impose increases ranging from 1.5 percent to 5 percent for each of the next four years. By comparison, the current contract started with no increase in year one, followed by annual increases of 2.5 percent.

“We ... look forward to partnering with the district as we deal with the current state funding challenges,” said Steven Roessler, region vice president, in a letter to the district.

Monday’s board meeting begins at 7 p.m. Monday at district headquarters, 110 McDonald Drive.

— The First Bell e-mailbox is always open:


GMom05 7 years, 3 months ago

Why is it that all they talk about is closing a school? Why is there no discussion about alternative options??? Surely closing one school isn't going to save 2 million dollars next year. If they don't begin this discussion soon, they won't leave themselves enough time to research other solutions and make educated decisions. Closing a school seems very reactive to me. Where's the exploration into all the possibilities? Last year the numbers showed that they'd save somewhere around 200-250,000 by closing a school. They'd have to close 10 of the 15 elementaries to save 2 million! And why is it that only our youngest and most vulnerable have to lose their school? Why is there no discussion about closing a Jr. High?

Richard Heckler 7 years, 3 months ago

What is missing from the discussion is how moving these children will impact their lives? Most people it seems believe children are invincible. That they will make the adjustment without harm.

Dollar savings are mostly speculation.

Why has there been no movement on selling the big white USD 497 headquarters? This has been suggested many many times. This sale could be absorbed by relocating the services to the Centennial Elementary School building.

Whatever other services are housed in the white building could be absorbed in the East Heights Elementary School building. Giving this building away to the Boys and Girls Club is probably a decision that needs to be revisited. USD 497 is largely still responsible for this building.

What are in the works for new construction projects? How can these be justified? USD 497 taxpayers must be consulted at the voting booth. This matter of avoiding voters because USD 497 can is unacceptable behavior.

Hwy50 7 years, 3 months ago

How does moving staff from the headquarters save money? If you move people to Centennial, what do you with the people in Centennial today (e.g. Virtual School)?

Catalano 7 years, 3 months ago

Mark: Please find out which elementary school boundaries the seven school board members live in. And throw in the task force members, too. If you can't do this, please explain why. Thank you.

kjh 7 years, 3 months ago

"Task force members are nearing the end of their appointed work, to "recommend a community vision and plan for the school district’s elementary facilities that reflect the varied community and educational values and how to best reflect those values given the restraints of current and anticipated district resources.” No offense to the hardworking task force members, but I have serious doubts that the outcome of the recommendations will truly reflect "a community vision and plan for the school district's elementary facilities that reflect the varied community and educational values". So far I feel like a portion of the community has been largely ignored. When some board members and task force members are presented with specific facts that counter the information being used in the witch hunt to close Wakarusa Valley, those facts are quickly swept under the rug, and things like skewed savings documents are presented in their place. Our children are a part of this district, and their best interests, as well as the value of Wakarusa Valley as an operating school in the district, continue to be ignored. The facility is in good shape, the school serves the largest geographic area in the district, there is projected growth in this area of the county. The distance the children will have to travel on the bus each day just to get to and from school if this school is closed is alarming. In the meantime other bordering schools are upset because they are extremely over crowded, yet nothing much is being said about some simple boundary changes that could solve several different problems. Why is none of this being heard, and instead Wakarusa Valley just keeps getting offered up as the sacrificial lamb????

Clevercowgirl 7 years, 3 months ago

Because Minder (Task Force leader, and S.B. President) wants to save his investment..I mean New York School.

spiderd 7 years, 3 months ago

Wow, Wakarusa folks are getting desperate and nasty lately. Finally, Doll has succeeded in turning communities against one another. It was difficult and it took a long time but he did it. Hats off Doll.

Clevercowgirl 7 years, 3 months ago

Not commenting against New York, just Minder. Facts are facts.

Clevercowgirl 7 years, 3 months ago

We are the least nasty bunch around. Get a grip spiderd.

kjh 7 years, 3 months ago


Richard Heckler 7 years, 3 months ago

The T and KU on wheels should be consulted. Perhaps would reconfigure routes for public school children. Offer up passes???

Richard Heckler 7 years, 3 months ago

On a side note:

A legislative committee has approved drafting a bill that would abolish the Kansas Board of Regents and the Kansas State Board of Education, creating a secretary of education appointed by .....

Clevercowgirl 7 years, 3 months ago

Blue Harley, if you were really a Wakarusa Valley person, you would not say such things. Let's wait and see. Methinks you are too pushy. The fat lady had not sung yet. What is your motive?

uneekness 7 years, 3 months ago

The schools are going to be closed - and it won't be just one or two. The five year plan that the task force is working on will leave the area east of Iowa from the river on the north and 23rd on the south with two schools after closings and consolidation (though there might be one additional school remaining just to the east of Iowa). This is because the board sees the schools as the only money available to be cut from the budget. The teacher contract constrains them on one side, and the the state funding law constrains them from raising any more money locally or dipping into capital funds on the other side, (even when the state doesn't meet it's own base state aid obligations.) What's left? Schools. Closing them allows a back-door way to cut teachers and save on other personnel costs. The "hard" cost of operating the building is relatively low. So instead of being charged with finding innovation or radical ways to maneuver around this mess, the task force was given directives that can be boiled down to "use the current educational fad's standards to rate schools in a way that there are winners and losers."

So you have a situation where safe, well-maintained, high-performing schools with stable enrollments are closed as a way to manage personnel costs. But the root of the problem is the state funding mess. The laws need to be amended to allow for contingencies.

uneekness 7 years, 3 months ago

I should add that looking at the task force subcommittee's draft reports and other materials, the scoring could have been manipulated to make nearly every school in the district be "worst."

kugrad 7 years, 3 months ago

Laws don't need amending, taxes need raising. Kansans support public education and I believe people are willing to pay for quality public schools. It is time to stop putting all the tax burden at the local level and return some of the burden to the state. For years now, the state legislators have talked a cut-taxes game but really just forced a shift in the tax burden to municipalities. In other words, local districts had to raise the mil levy and property taxes are higher now, even though the state cut it's share of property taxes. It is a shell game. The legislature needs to stop pretending they are between a rock and a hard place. Don't give me that canard that says, "We can't raise taxes in this recession," because that is baloney. Those who are unemployed are not paying income taxes. Anyone who is could easily kick in $5 a month for public schools. Acting like we are just forced into cutting school funding with no options is a political lie.

isseldor 7 years, 3 months ago

kugrad, that is an idea that sounds fine to me!

Also, anyone who wants to stay on top of this issue, please feel free to participate in the discussion at:

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