Lawrence’s four public junior high schools could start the next academic year with more than new missions.
The schools — already set to become middle schools by welcoming sixth-graders to campus and leaving ninth-graders to high schools — now will get a chance to get entirely new names, members of the Lawrence school board decided Thursday night.
On a 4-3 vote, the board opted to forego simply changing the school’s names from junior highs to middle schools.
Instead, the board will appoint a name-recommending committee for each school whose members will be responsible for coming up with names to replace the directional labels — Central, South, Southwest and West — that have been familiar for years.
Board members plan to make the final decisions.
“The directions are not accurate anymore,” said Mary Loveland, who has spent 20 years on the school board. “What are we going to call (a school on) the land we have out west? West Squared?
“Seriously, this is an opportunity to do it right.”
Unless, of course, the committees favor the familiar.
“If they decide to keep the same names, I guess we’ll just have to swallow that,” Loveland said.
Loveland joined fellow members Marlene Merrill, Rich Minder and Vanessa Sanburn in approving the pursuit of new names — but not mascots — for the junior highs, which officially will become middle schools July 1.
Administrators had recommended retaining the school’s directional names, but replacing “junior high” in each case with “middle.” Frank Harwood, the district’s chief operations officer, said that principals had acknowledged already having plenty of other issues to deal with, given upcoming changes to curriculum, enrollments, schedules and other matters related to the switch to middle schools.
Mark Bradford, the board’s vice president, criticized fellow board members for even considering making such major changes, which could require new signs, stationery and sports uniforms. The state is looking to cut $1.2 million from this year’s budget and up to $4 million for next year.
“I just think it’s a waste of taxpayers’ money at this point,” Bradford said.
Besides, he said, “We’re going to confuse the hell out of everybody.”
Scott Morgan and Bob Byers had indicated support for changing direction at only one school: Central, which would have relied on its building’s original name — when it had been a high school — to become Liberty Memorial Middle School.
That name could well emerge, but it will face a committee approach. Superintendent Rick Doll plans to ask principals for potential nominees — likely to be taken from site councils and student councils — so that board members can form the committees Jan. 24.
Minder, for one, is looking forward to students, staffers, parents and others in the community rallying around the renaming efforts.
“Goodwill is hard to come by in hard economic times,” Minder said. “This is something that may be worth the effort.”