A majority of the Lawrence school board voted last week to pursue new names* for what next year will be the Lawrence school district’s four middle schools — Central, South, Southwest and West — and intend to appoint committees a week from now, with committee members to recommend what the new names should be.
(* The schools’ “new” names could remain the “same” names, of course, if committee members recommend that they like things just the way they are. But one thing’s for sure: The names will include “middle school” instead of “junior high school.”)
Anyway, here are a few suggestions for the schools’ names as recommended by helpful readers and others — and all I can say for now is thanks, and keep the ideas coming, as we here at First Bell will be sharing input and offering insights all week and beyond:
• Clark Coan suggests options for two of the schools: Oregon Trail Middle School for South, because “the Oregon Trail went right through the SJHS/Broken Arrow property”; and Meadowlark Middle School for Southwest, as Meadowlark is the state bird and the school is adjacent to Sunflower, the elementary school named after the state flower.
• Gene Wallace, an online commenter who goes by pendragons, offers a different take on directional names and leans on landmarks and road signs for guidance: Mount Oread Middle School (for West, 2700 Harvard), Inverness Middle School (for Southwest, at 2511 Inverness Drive), Louisiana Middle School (for South, at 2734 La.), and Mass. Street Middle School (for Central, 1400 Mass.)
• Another online commenter, Did_I_say_that, suggests a take on the names that would be a change only as of July 1, the first day the four schools are scheduled to be middle schools: “Since Lawrence is on the cutting edge of education, let’s just leave them as they are: South Junior High, Southwest Junior High, West Junior High, and Central Junior High. Let the rest of the state catch up to Lawrence and reconfigure their schools so that 6th, 7th, and 8th grade schools are junior high schools.”
Superintendent Rick Doll plans to gather potential committee candidates from school principals, then forward nominees to board members for consideration and approval. To comply with board policy, board members must appoint the committees this month, and that means during their next meeting: 7 p.m. Jan. 24 at district headquarters, 110 McDonald Drive.
Again, keep those ideas coming.
Speaking of school names...
Southeast Elementary School opened 50 years ago this month, and that’s cause for celebration at 1605 Davis Road.
Students, faculty, staff and friends will be taking part in a weeklong “bash” at the school formerly known as Southeast, said Sarah Ward, PTO secretary at what is now Kennedy School. Kennedy educates preschoolers through sixth-graders.
Turns out the Lawrence school board, back in April 1961, voted unanimously to rename the school in honor of Opal Jayne Kennedy, who retired in 1961 after 50 years — that’s right, 50 years — of teaching and leading the education of children in Lawrence and Douglas County.
Kennedy’s PTO is sponsoring a sock hop and trivia event, to be conducted from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday at the school. Michael Wilson is donating his services as deejay, and staffers and parent volunteers will be baking cakes to create an “edible quilt,” said Crystal Harris, a reading specialist at Kennedy.
Avery Mulally, a Kennedy fifth-grader, came up with the winning design for the school’s 50th anniversary T-shirts.
Friday evening, students will be encouraged to wear ’50s attire to the event, and the public is invited to participate in the sock hop, answer trivia questions and help recall a half century of memories.
All while making new ones.
“This event is an open invitation to anyone in the community,” Harris said. “We encourage all former and current students and their families, along with current or retired staff of USD 497 to come enjoy our celebration.”
Gov. Sam Brownback’s proposed budget could cost the Lawrence school district anywhere from $1.2 million to $1.5 million this school year, and administrators already are looking for places to absorb the pain.
“So far we have a little bit of information from a lot of places,” said Frank Harwood, the district’s chief operations officer. “This is our best estimate.”
Likely methods for handling the cuts, Harwood said, for a budget that runs through June 30:
• Cut the district’s “non-wage” accounts, simply by not depositing the last 25 percent they have been scheduled to receive. That would mean less money for buying paper, pens, light bulbs for projectors and other materials; and cutting planned training sessions and resources for teachers and other licensed personnel.
• Stop hiring for open positions. “We’ll see how many we can get away without filling,” Harwood said.
• Dip into contingency funds to make ends meet. The district has $6 million set aside for handling unexpected costs and other expenses, a total that continues to dwindle as the state imposes more cuts.
In all, the state already has cut more than $7 million from district budgets over the past three years. Next year, Harwood said, another $4 million could be added to that total.
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