Archive for Saturday, July 9, 2011

15th St. may not be great divide

School leaders to discuss changing high school boundary

July 9, 2011


Although a portion of the street’s name has changed, the line splitting attendance areas for Lawrence’s two public high schools remains the same as it’s always been.

But the overall number and characteristics of students on each side of the dividing line — 15th Street/Bob Billings Parkway — are shifting, and that’s catching the attention of members of the Lawrence school board.

Determining just how students are assigned to Free State and Lawrence high schools, and from where, is poised to be among issues at least discussed as board members determine their goals for the coming year.

“When 15th Street was set up as a boundary, it made perfect sense,” said Bob Byers, entering his third year on the board. “But it’s different now. We need to figure out the best way to do that. It’s no longer as simple as drawing a line down the middle of Lawrence, and now we’re all equal. You can’t do that.

“It’ll take some looking at, and making some purposeful decisions about what we should do.”

The concern — one brought up during previous board meetings and poised to arise in future ones — is “the whole separate-but-equal thing,” Byers said: ensuring that programs, resources, facilities, instruction and other matters at each campus are comparable.

When one school ends up with too many students, or too many from minority ethnic groups or too many with relatively low incomes, Byers said, keeping resources equal becomes increasingly difficult.

“You’re consistently fighting that balance,” said Byers, who works as a system program administrator for child support enforcement with the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services. “We’re going to have to keep fighting it, but it would behoove the district to set up a structure for how to make those decisions.

“We need a lot more data and a lot more discussion.”

Among the population trends at the two schools, from the opening of Free State in 1997 and recent years:


While the two schools started out with a large overall imbalance — Free State opened with 869, while Lawrence High had 1,261 — that could be attributed to a major policy allowance: seniors could choose to stay at Lawrence High to graduate. At the sophomore and junior levels, the enrollment was essentially balanced: Free State had 749, while Lawrence High had 780.

These days, Lawrence High has an even higher share of high schoolers: 1,206, compared with 1,064 at Free State. The spread will be expected to widen this fall with the arrival of ninth-graders on each campus.


In 1997, the two schools were relatively close in two key demographic categories:

• Minorities enrolled, with Lawrence High at 18.7 percent and Free State at 16.9 percent.

• Students receiving free and reduced-price lunches, an indication of family income, with Lawrence High at 18.1 percent and Free State at 14.3 percent.

These days those spreads have widened, and others tracked using data collected by the Kansas State Department of Education show a disparity.

Lawrence High, when compared with Free State, now has more minorities (25.3 percent to 21.2 percent); more economically disadvantaged students (38.6 percent to 25.6 percent); more English language learners (5.8 percent to 2.5 percent); and more students with disabilities (19.6 percent to 15.2 percent).

Attendance and graduation

Back in 1997, the two schools were virtually identical in terms of how many of their students showed up each day for school and how many ended up receiving their diplomas: Lawrence High recorded an average daily attendance of 97.04 percent, compared with 96.77 percent at Free State; Lawrence High’s graduation rate was 86.6 percent, compared with Free State at 86 percent.

Nowadays, those rates have diverged: Lawrence High’s average daily attendance was 87.9 percent last year, compared with 92.8 percent at Free State; and Lawrence High had 20.1 percent of its students not graduating, compared with 7.2 percent at Free State.

Looking ahead

Board members have discussed such trends in the past, and undoubtedly will do so again. Monday night, the seven-member board will welcome four new faces elected in April — Rick Ingram, Shannon Kimball, Randy Masten and Keith Diaz Moore — and they will be scheduled to discuss plans for conducting a goals-setting session in the coming weeks.

Whenever the session is scheduled, Byers plans to bring up the high school boundary as something he’d like the board to address. Whether that’s during the coming year, the next year or the year after that remains to be seen, he said, but he does know at least one thing for certain.

“At some point the district needs to have that struggle,” Byers said. “And it will be a struggle.”


John Hamm 6 years, 10 months ago

“the whole separate-but-equal thing,” Ah, don't some members of the Lawrence community love that phrase?

not_that_crazy 6 years, 10 months ago

How about actually enforcing the boundries first? Everyone knows 10-20 people that go to Free State that live outside the boundary lines. Some have "special exceptions" that they got merely by writing a letter, some claim to own property and some put down relatives addresses.

Take_a_letter_Maria 6 years, 10 months ago

With an equal or greater number going to LHS from FSHS for some reason or another and using the same methods.

Keith 6 years, 10 months ago

How about putting 9th and 10th at one school, and 11th and 12th at the other.

Jean Robart 6 years, 10 months ago

wouldn't an east west boundary work better?

Clovis Sangrail 6 years, 10 months ago

"Lawrence High, when compared with Free State, now has more minorities (25.3 percent to 21.2 percent); more economically disadvantaged students (38.6 percent to 25.6 percent); more English language learners (5.8 percent to 2.5 percent); and more students with disabilities (19.6 percent to 15.2 percent)."

This demographic shift is due, no doubt, to the burgeoning population of minority and economically disadvantaged students in southwest Lawrence, so it makes sense to shift the boundaries and move these over to Free State.

kuguardgrl13 6 years, 10 months ago

Changing school boundaries is a necessary evil when trying to run a school district. If the Free State/LHS boundary hasn't changed in 14 years, then it's high time it did. The two schools won't be exactly the same (they each have their distinct personalities), but Byers is correct in saying they should be equal. If they're going to move boundaries though, students should not be given a choice like last time. That gives parents room to argue for younger children that haven't entered high school yet. Before they make the change though, they should make sure that the facilities are equal too.

jhawkinsf 6 years, 10 months ago

A lottery. Families are given either an even number or an odd number. Even goes to LHS, odd to FSHS. No exceptions. Things like minorities, economically disadvantaged, etc., will even out in the long run. Live next to one school and assigned to the other, too bad.
It lacks common sense, but it's as fair as can be. Now if you want to trade a little common sense for a little fairness.......

sn5792 6 years, 10 months ago

It's absolutely ridiculous that in a town like Lawrence we have a nationally recognized high school, with a statistic of 20% of the students not graduating.

Clovis Sangrail 6 years, 10 months ago

It is all of those academic sluggards out in those neighborhoods with the golf and tennis streets that are pulling LHS's graduation rate down. We definitely need to shift that boundary to Iowa Street to get them moved over to Free State.

Katara 6 years, 10 months ago

All houses numbers that are even go to LHS and all those with odd numbers go to FSHS.

Or we could just line up all the teens in Lawrence and do "eeny, meeny. miney. moe."

Or we could have a massive rock, paper scissors tournament to decide who goes where.

Or maybe a dance-off.

Flap Doodle 6 years, 10 months ago

Could the district hire some high-priced out-of-state consultants to gum up the works and make it all more complicated? That seems to be SOP for things around Lawrence.

Tony Kisner 6 years, 10 months ago

They should put all the rich kids in one and all the poor in another just to give the social engineers something to really complain about. Plus we could have the soc'es vs the greasers.

Stephen Roberts 6 years, 10 months ago

If the district changes the boundaries and my area is sent to LHS, then I will either move to LFHS area or send my kinds to Bishop Seabury. If my kids are sent to Bishop Seabury, I will send each board member a letter every month stating that they just lost out on more state money.

Clovis Sangrail 6 years, 10 months ago

At least you had the good sense to buy your house in the district you wanted your kids to go to school in instead of buying in another school's district and then whining to get the boundaries changed.

But you had better be preared to move or start checking out Seabury, because eventually, all the monied folks in southwest Lawrence will get together and buy themselves a school board.

Austin Bergstrom 6 years, 10 months ago

The thats a classic! Do it for it for Johnny!

Curtis Lange 6 years, 10 months ago

From the way this article reads, it sounds like they want to change the boundary just to make their stats look better...not fix the actual problems of getting students to go to class, learn and graduate.

irnmadn88 6 years, 10 months ago

Doesn't USD 497 own a tract of land west of the K-10 at US 40 intersection? Does this factor into this redrawing of the line? Or how about the absence of the needed Sewage Treatment Facility on the southeast side of Lawrence? If ever the economy recovers and building starts again, where do you suppose the new housing developments will go? SE or NW? Yup, NW. Right along with the proposed retail corridor at the aforementioned intersection.

The wrinkle in all this is the completion of US 59 and the South Lawrence Traffic Way along with the Sewage Facility. Once all of that infrastructure is in place, then we can expect a boom to the south east. Until then, I expect everything to go to the NW.

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