Archive for Tuesday, February 15, 2011

First Bell: Task force moderator solicits e-mail insights; Wakarusa Valley bus routes would be reviewed; potential moves for Cordley, Pinckney students

February 15, 2011


A few extra notes from Monday's meeting of an advisory group appointed in May by the Lawrence school board, and whose work is due by the end of the month:

Members of the Lawrence Elementary School Facility Vision Task Force may not have been able to reach consensus Monday night — recommend closing one elementary school next year or two? — but they’ll get a chance to put their ideas in writing before officials take another shot next week.

The 20 task force members attending Monday’s meeting were asked by Mike Neal, the group’s moderator, to forward e-mails to Rick Doll, superintendent of Lawrence public schools, outlining thoughts they may have about recommending closures.

The members already had agreed two weeks ago to consider recommending closure of either one or two of the following three elementary schools: Cordley, Pinckney or Wakarusa Valley. But during Monday night’s deliberations, no consensus emerged.

Neal attempted several times to convince members to express their thoughts, but a number of the appointees remained silent. Task force co-chairmen Rich Minder and Scott Morgan both tried to gather support for recommending the closure of one school next year — Wakarusa Valley — while planning for consolidation of four schools into two within three to five years: Kennedy and New York in eastern Lawrence, and Hillcrest and Sunset Hill in central Lawrence.

“We would move forward with that as a basic framework,” Morgan said, describing the work of his fellow task force members as “incredible” thus far.

Neal said that task force members could use e-mail to offer opinions or seek out information — all to help move the group closer to achieving consensus during the next meeting, set for 5:30 p.m. Monday at district headquarters, 110 McDonald Drive.

(FYI: I’ve been attending task force meetings since August, and I’m making arrangements to receive copies of any e-mails sent this week to Doll from task force members.)

The task force is scheduled to present its recommendations Feb. 28 to the Lawrence school board.

District reports about each of the potential closures and/or consolidations are available online in the Resources section of the task force's web page.


The longest bus route for a student at Wakarusa Valley School is 52 minutes, and that number wouldn’t be expected to increase much — if at all — should the school be closed next year and its students enrolled at other elementary schools in Lawrence, a district official said.

The longest current bus ride starts at 6:38 a.m. for one student, who gets dropped off at school at 7:30 a.m., said Frank Harwood, the district’s chief operations officer.

Consultations with representatives from First Student Inc., the district’s transportation provider, determined that no student’s bus ride would increase by more than 15 minutes. That’s because even if existing bus routes were retained, and students continued to be taken to the school at 1104 E. 1000 Road (just southeast of Clinton Lake), driving to another school from there would take no more than 15 minutes, Harwood said.

More likely, Harwood said: First Student could conduct a more detailed study to determine where students were coming from and adjust for where they would be going.

“They believe they can get any one route to less than one hour,” Harwood told members of the task force.

District administrators would anticipate Wakarusa Valley students being spread out among three schools in the southern part of Lawrence: Broken Arrow, Schwegler and Sunflower.


Along with Wakarusa Valley, Cordley and Pinckney schools also are being considered by task force members as candidates for possible closure next year.

According to district officials, here’s where students from Cordley and Pinckney would be expected to attend:

• If Cordley closed, students could go to Kennedy, New York, Pinckney, Quail Run and Schwegler schools.

• If Pinckney closed, students could go to Deerfield, New York, Sunset Hill and Woodlawn schools.

• If both schools closed — something task force members tentatively agreed Monday that they would not pursue — students could go to Broken Arrow, Deerfield, Hillcrest, Kennedy, New York, Quail Run, Schwegler, Sunset Hill and Woodlawn schools.


alm77 7 years ago

"Neal attempted several times to convince members to express their thoughts, but a number of the appointees remained silent." So no one wanted to go on-record with their thoughts because so many school supporters were in the room listening.

"Neal said that task force members could use e-mail to offer opinions or seek out information..." is this a way to make the meeting less than public? Will those emails be available for everyone to read as statements would be available for everyone to hear?

somedude20 7 years ago

Schools are dumb! Our young men and women can learn all that they need from video games and HBO (Skinemax for sex ed).

" Avoid crack, unless you can manage it socially."- Charlie Sheen

Richard Heckler 7 years ago

So much for transparency unless those who contact Doll are willing to put a face to their comments.

areyousure 7 years ago

So no one wants to voice their opinions. I guess it is little harder to make a decision than it is to berate the school board when they are wrestling with decisions on how to cut the budget.

Could it be that the members of the task force thought that they would be able to find some way to keep all schools open and when presented with the facts, they don't want to admit that closing one or two schools may be the only option.

alm77 7 years ago

Or could it be that they've been told the only option is to close schools? I'm asking. I don't know.

From the 60 applicants that wanted to be on the Task Force how many of them were part of the parent movement that actually waded through the budget last year?

Who picked the Task Force Members? That I do know. Dr. Doll.

Is he open to other options?

Business_Guy 7 years ago

Could it be that the Board isn't listening to the task force because their minds are made up? It sounds tome that the Board hasn't explored any other options and that doesn't come as a surprise!

alm77 7 years ago

I thought it was the job of the Task Force to explore the options. That is what I'm asking. Are they doing that or are they being directed?

spiderd 7 years ago

The task force spent 5 months gathering data the district should have already had. There is no time to look at other options. The whole thing is a farce... a task farce is what it is.

The facilitator himself referred to their work as a "close and consolidate 5 year plan" just over a month ago. Not sure about you but I don't recall that being the original charge.

deec 7 years ago

There's one way to find out. Email him. Flood his inbox, and set up another email account to be carbon copied the emails. Perhaps SOS already has an account?

kjh 7 years ago

"The longest bus route for a student at Wakarusa Valley School is 52 minutes, and that number wouldn’t be expected to increase much — if at all — should the school be closed next year and its students enrolled at other elementary schools in Lawrence, a district official said. The longest current bus ride starts at 6:38 a.m. for one student, who gets dropped off at school at 7:30 a.m., said Frank Harwood, the district’s chief operations officer." If that is true, and I question whether this is entirely accurate after speaking with parents of current riders, this is a much different scenario if the child is a 5th grader than if the child is a kindergartner. So, given that Broken Arrow doesn't have all day kindergarten, and if that is where at least some Wakarusa children would go, a kindergartner could be on the bus for a total of 2 hours per day, in order to go to school for four hours? How does this make good sense???

Currant 7 years ago

Thank you, Mark, for offering to track these email communications between Task Force members and Dr. Doll. I was at the meeting last night and was dismayed to hear the moderator request that at the very end. It seemed as much as anything an effort to get around the public process. The Task Force deserves much credit for their hard work, and I don't think they expect to be able to hide behind their opinions via email. Please keep us posted.

deec 7 years ago

It would be interesting to see a map of the current school boundaries overlaidwith a map of the proposed changes.

GMom05 7 years ago

I too thank you Mark for offering. However, I suspect that Dr. Doll, will feed you only the emails that support the Morgan/Minder/Doll agenda. So, you will inadvertantly feed us just what you are given. Morgan's stunt last night was just that. Pulling out that comment in the 11th hour of the meeting was manipulative. He knew as soon as he opened his mouth it would end up in the paper, "Former School Board President and current member, Scott Morgan, said that he hears there is consensus to close Wakarusa Valley." President Rich Minder supported that statement. What baloney! Those of us that were actually at that meeting know that Wakarusa had virtually not been discussed at all by that point, and that Morgan orchestrated it simply to get a sound byte from the press. It was disgusting and underhanded.

shorttrees 7 years ago

So we close a few schools, consolidate our kids into facilities that become even more crowded, with higher class numbers, and more class sections. That opens the door to a "need" for smaller classes and new facilities down the road. So pass another bond issue (of course, we taxpayers have unlimited funds!) and build new schools. Wash rinse repeat with the remaining schools over the next 10 years.

What no one seems to explain is how it will save money to close schools and then turn around and build those new schools (after a bond issue presumably passes). This whole thing has smacked of boondoggle since the beginning, or at the very least extreme short-sightedness. Hmmm--could the real problem be that the schools on the closing list are effective in what they do, even with older buildings or "disadvantaged" neighborhoods? Could it be that this is part of a deliberate and ongoing campaign against the quality of education in Lawrence? Or is there a developer after some of the property? What's the REAL story?

alm77 7 years ago

At the school board meeting on February 28th, Pinckney is being recognized for their excellent performance on the standardized tests that they took last year. Effective indeed.

areyousure 7 years ago

Did the building take the tests?

I imagine the students and teachers were more responsible for that result. And while with the possible school closures, the teachers may not have a job, the students will still be in classes.

alm77 7 years ago

I agree with you. Did you think I was being sarcastic?

Sarcasm never happens here! <-- okay, that was sarcastic.

GMom05 7 years ago

What? Why then did Woodlawn or Broken Arrow receive the Blue Ribbon of Excellence award? Did the building win the award? It should have been, "The staff, students, and administrators located at 2830 Louisiana, Lawrence, KS received the Blue Ribbon Award!" Whatever happens in these schools happens because of the environment for learning that is set up for them. It also happens because of a sense of community and parent involvement. Whichever school gets closed will result in all those children suffering, because there will be parent and child disconnect from that building. Not to mention some of these building are over crowded, have no walls in their classrooms, smell bad, have no light, or any other number of things that can be detrimental to a child thriving in school. At least if schools must be closed, (and if they'd start looking at the old list of options from last year maybe that could be avoided, I don't know) close the ones that have more barriers to effective learning.

Clevercowgirl 7 years ago

Every elementary school was recognized. Wakarusa Valley got 7 of those awards including Building level Standard of Excellence in science and reading. Also, I believe being a blue ribbon school must be title I.

guesswho 7 years ago

The elementary schools next year will have 2-3 empty classrooms in each building as the 6th graders are moving into the new middle schools, so space is not as much of an issue.

No matter what is done, most of the buildings will need to be replaced at some point. It will be new bonds, but other bonds will be paid off.

It is not the schools themselves that are effective (as stated below) but the parents, teachers, administration.

wow365 7 years ago

Mark are you a reporter or a puppet for the school board. How about some reporting instead of regurgitating what Morgan spoon feeds you. He has an agenda and instead of questioning and investigating you report what he tells you. Are these added notes he wanted everyone to know that you didn't report on last night?

If he announces he took a dump and it didn't stink - would you take him on his word - maybe question a little bit that there might have been some aroma.

Do some reporting! LJW doesn't need puppets to pass on someones political agenda!

workinghard 7 years ago

There was plenty of room to build a new school next to Centennial but we got tennis courts instead. Then Cordley could have been closed and there still would have been a neighborhood school.

LogicMan 7 years ago

With Wakarusa being in the designated southern growth area, and new homes and families going into growth areas when growth returns, permanently closing that school would be short-sighted. If necessary mothball it, but don't get rid of the building and the land. Maybe a private school, church, or business would want to lease all or part of it?

weeslicket 7 years ago

this isn't the article from today's paper that i was looking for, but i will double post from a previous thread:

  1. first of all, closing or consolidating schools saves very little money ("operating costs"?). a handful of employees would be "downsized" (please refer to my 10:01 post yesterday).

  2. as mary loveland will tell you, it really doesn't matter what the capital outlay costs are for ANY building in the district-- there is always money for that.

  3. (wait for it) what does the district intend to do with these "savings"? well, let dr. doll tell you himself

in case you are not able to access this link (it has been a bit fussy for me) at about 6:06, dr. doll says: "Conduct a resource review and strongly consider closing schools and using the savings to bolster the instructional program, particularly the loss of instructional coaches and central office staff."

READ: "savings" = hire central office staff "bolster" the instructional program = hire more administrators

  1. next time you hear these folks talk about putting money into instruction and classrooms, just know, once again, they are really talking about putting money into bureaucrats.

Clevercowgirl 7 years ago

Consolidating schools could cost upwards of $30 million for two schools. How is that saving money for what goes on in the classrooms?

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