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: firstname.lastname@example.org.