Renovate Cordley and Pinckney schools.
Turn New York School into an early-childhood center.
Replace both Sunset Hill and East Heights buildings with new, larger schools designed to meet the growing needs of district programs and student populations.
Such projects surfaced Monday night on lists of potential projects for members of a task force studying the future of elementary schools in the Lawrence school district. But such relatively long-term options — ones forwarded for studied, not yet adoption — certainly wouldn’t come without a price.
That’s because members of the Lawrence Elementary School Facility Vision Task Force also are looking for ways to save money. And that would mean balancing projects that might be financed through a potential bond issue against savings that could be achieved by closing a school or two or three.
Among schools mentioned for potential closure by groups at various tables Monday night were Wakarusa Valley, Hillcrest, Kennedy and New York, although some plans would consider sparing some of those schools while looking for savings elsewhere.
“There will be another group that has a scenario for closing Cordley,” said Brad Finkeldei, member of a group that reached consensus on recommending closure of both Wakarusa Valley and Hillcrest. “You will see that.”
Such considerations will come during the next two weeks. That’s when Finkeldei and leaders of three other task force subcommittees will work with consulting architects and district administrators to determine just how effective such scenarios might be.
Battling budget woes
The task force has until the end of February — a month later than originally intended — to come up with recommendations for a plan to handle the district’s elementary schools during the next five years and beyond. The goal is to reflect “varied community and educational values” given “the restraints of current and anticipated district resources.”
By the end of June, the district expects to be forced into cutting at least $1 million from its budget, because of state cuts. The total could swell to $4 million for 2011-12, administrators say.
“The task force is not going to solve the entire problem for us, but it’s a significant piece they have to help us with solving, a significant piece of our problem,” said Rick Doll, district superintendent.
Task force members already have spent months studying several aspects of elementary planning: physical conditions and limitations of the schools themselves; potential operational efficiencies; research and “best practices” for meeting educational needs; and defining “neighborhood schools” and their relationship to city planning.
Now they’re taking their research and using it to guide recommendations for potential school consolidations, program relocations and other moves that would be intended to both save money and build a strong foundation for success in the years ahead.
“We need to be looking five, 10 years down the road,” said Rich Minder, board president and co-chair of the task force.
Time to meet again
Such vision will be focused Jan. 31, when task force members will be scheduled to reconvene for a 7 p.m. meeting at district headquarters, 110 McDonald Drive. That’s when members will learn whether the “scenarios” they’d entertained Monday night might actually serve as efficient and effective solutions for the district overall.
Scenarios emerging Monday night included potential school closures, boundary changes, program shifts, school renovations, classroom additions, new construction and other suggestions.
Administrators and consultants will study the options in search of consensus from among the two dozen task force members, whose final document will be used by board members in their deliberations in the weeks, months and years ahead.
“I’ve been so impressed that this task force is having these unpleasant conversations that have strained this community for so many years,” said Scott Morgan, a board member and task force co-chair. “Whatever the conclusion is, it will be invaluable — not only to the board, but, most importantly, to the students.”