Archive for Monday, February 14, 2011

First Bell: Parents to head back to junior high — er, middle school — this week; supporters expected to stand up for schools tonight; past bond issues offer insight

February 14, 2011, 6:03 a.m. Updated February 14, 2011, 11:18 a.m.


A few education-oriented items from around the area:

The schools may not have their final “new” names yet, but parents of middle schoolers will be attending informational meetings this week at the Lawrence school district’s four junior highs, in which enrollment for the 2011-12 school year begins this month.

Parent Information Nights are scheduled as follows:

• Central Junior High School (to become Central Middle School)*, 1400 Mass.: 5:30 p.m. Tuesday for fifth grade, 6:15 p.m. Tuesday for sixth grade, and 7 p.m. Tuesday for seventh grade.

• South Junior High School (to become South Middle School)*, 2734 La.: 5:45 p.m. Thursday for both fifth and sixth grades, and 6:45 p.m. Thursday for seventh grade.

• Southwest Junior High School (to become Southwest Middle School)*, 2511 Inverness Drive: 6:30 p.m. Thursday for fifth, sixth grades and 7:30 p.m. Thursday for seventh grade.

• West Junior High School (to become West Middle School)*, 2700 Harvard Road: 6 p.m. Thursday for fifth grade, 7 p.m. Thursday for sixth grade and 8 p.m. Thursday for seventh grade.

(*Such names originally were recommended by district administrators, with the consent of the school principals; a majority of the Lawrence school board, however, asked principals to convene naming committees to make recommendations for each. The school board anticipates receiving recommendations sometime around spring break.)


Observers very well could outnumber members of the Lawrence Elementary School Facility Vision Task Force during the group’s meeting set for 5:30 p.m. today at district headquarters, 110 McDonald Drive.

Parents and supporters of Cordley, Pinckney and Wakarusa Valley schools will be expected to attend the meeting, during which district administrators will disclose and discuss details regarding potential closure scenarios next year.

“Come, keep everybody honest,” said Jessica Beeson, a task force member whose son attends Cordley. “The community’s watching. They’re engaged. They want to know what’s going on. That’s exactly what we want.”

During a meeting two weeks ago, task force members consented by consensus to have detailed information compiled for potential closures: either one or two schools to be closed for next year. Cordley, Pinckney and Wakarusa Valley were chosen from among the district’s 15 elementary schools to be studied. Four others were tabbed for study for potential consolidation within three to five years: Kennedy and New York at one site, and then Hillcrest and Sunset Hill at another.

Supporters have been busy mobilizing folks to attend not only the task force meeting, but also the meeting that follows: The Lawrence school board meets at 7 p.m., also at district headquarters.

Board members, after all, will be the ones deciding whether or how to implement the task force’s recommendations for “improvements to facilities to better meet the (district’s) current programming needs,” as the board described the group’s charge last year.

The task force’s recommendations are due to the board Feb. 28.


As the Lawrence Elementary School Facility Vision Task Force moves closer to making recommendations for closing, consolidating, upgrading and — perhaps — building schools, it’s interesting to look back at past bond issues to see how upcoming decisions differ from the past’s.

Here’s a look at district records going back to 1986:

• In May 1986, voters approved borrowing $8.6 million to build Quail Run School and add onto three other elementaries.

• In November 1990, voters rejected borrowing $31 million that would have financed construction of a second high school (on land that today is home to Langston Hughes School), would have renovated Lawrence High School and would have expanded Sunset Hill and Wakarusa Valley schools.

• In November 1992, voters agreed to a $33.5 million bond issue that refinanced some previous debt and financed construction of Prairie Park and Sunflower schools; Southwest Junior High School; and renovations at Central Junior High School and Lawrence High School.

• In November 1994, voters told the board to borrow $36.9 million to build a second high school, which is Free State High School; make renovations to 14 schools; upgrade athletics fields and tracks at several sites; and replace roofs at six schools. The bond issue also put money into other elementary schools: gym and library at New York; gym at Wakarusa Valley; library at Sunset Hill; library at Broken Arrow; and gym at Woodlawn.

• In November 1998, voters endorsed borrowing $16 million to build Langston Hughes, renovate Pinckney, upgrade the Woodlawn library, add classrooms at Prairie Park, and make energy-efficiency upgrades at Broken Arrow, East Heights, Kennedy, Quail Run, Schwegler, Sunset Hill and Central, South and West junior highs.

• In April 2003, voters rejected a $59 million borrowing plan that would have replaced South Junior High; consolidated Centennial and Cordley, and East Heights and New York; and made additions to schools so that portable classrooms could be eliminated at Broken Arrow, Deerfield, Hillcrest, Kennedy, Quail Run, Sunset Hill and Wakarusa Valley. Also rejected were renovations for Central, South and West junior highs; upgrades at Lawrence High; and a Lawrence Futures Academy.

• In April 2005, voters approved refinancing some earlier debt while also financing the replacement of South Junior High; renovations and/or additions at all other secondary schools, plus Broken Arrow; and technology upgrades districtwide. Some leftover funds later were used to help finance athletics upgrades at secondary schools.

What will the next proposed bond issue include? That will be up to members of the school board, after receiving advice from members of the task force.

“They will make some recommendations for fixing up the elementary schools that we’re going to keep,” said Rick Doll, district superintendent. “It would be up to the board to sit down with architects, evaluate all of our buildings, and come up with a bond issue.

“I will say this: We have ignored our older schools for a long time, so it’s time for the district to take a real hard look at our east and central Lawrence schools.”

— The First Bell e-mailbox is always open:


Kookamooka 4 years, 7 months ago

Where's the bond issue that created the sports fields? And it seems like Sunset Hill has unfortunately been rejected for nearly every bond issue that would have helped them eliminate portables. The voters approval of projects seems random.

GMom05 4 years, 7 months ago

The South parent meetings are on Thursday the 17th, not Wednesday.

zip2play 4 years, 7 months ago

GMom05 is right, they have the wrong days listed. The meetings are set for Tuesday and THURSDAY, none of the schools are meeting Wednesday night.

Run4More 4 years, 7 months ago

The District's website dates don't match the dates in this story for all the schools. The districts page is stating Tuesday and Thursday. Not Tuesday and Wednesday.

Clevercowgirl 4 years, 7 months ago

"Parents and supporters of Cordley, Pinckney and Wakarusa Valley schools will be expected to attend the meeting, during which district administrators will disclose and discuss details regarding potential closure scenarios next year."

Are we expected to attend? LOL Those that are really engaged have known what the Task Force and administrators have been up to for a long time. It is a very complicated situation. I would hope that mob attendance would not further impede good, sound decisions from being made. The good guys are trying to sift through information, in order to make good, logical decisions. Let's as concerned parents, not muddy the waters with a flood of attendees. Please send your reps, not your mobs. If your only argument is mob action.....what is that saying?

deec 4 years, 7 months ago

Maybe they're saying Democracy in action? Exercising free speech and right to assembly?

Synjyn Smythe 4 years, 7 months ago

Since when did they start allowing public comment at the taskforce meetings?

wmathews 4 years, 7 months ago

Thanks for letting us know about the Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday errors in the story. I've fixed these according to the district's website. If you notice anything else out of place, please let me know!

Whitney Mathews Assistant Community Editor for Online

Clevercowgirl 4 years, 7 months ago

@ Catalano

If you are addressing me, Catalano, then yes, I have been paying a lot of attention to Egypt. More, in fact, that I would like to have to. You see, I have a daughter who in one short month will be deployed to that part of the world. I do know about free speech and liberty, and have unending respect for those who are willing to stand up for such. But, how a fight for personal freedom, and free speech, can be compared to overcrowding a meeting.......I fail to see any important analogy. Yes, whatever school is affected, will contain lots of people affected.

alm77 4 years, 7 months ago

The organization I'm familiar with is sending people to rally as a show of support outside before the meeting and sending representatives to the meeting itself. I thing that's a perfect compromise. I must say that people are itching to help in some way and this method will help them feel useful and heard while not overcrowding the process.

Kookamooka 4 years, 7 months ago

What if you are a concerned person who doesn't know if any of the people chosen by the other people to represent you, will actually represent you?

Synjyn Smythe 4 years, 7 months ago

Kookamooka: Then you'd want to show up tonight and voice your concerns at the school board's meeting which follows the taskforce meeting! Good luck!!!

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