Dividing lines

School boundaries aren’t carved in stone, but local school officials shouldn’t be too quick to shift the dividing line between Lawrence’s two high schools.

June 17, 2011


On the eve of a new school board being seated, the issue of boundary lines for Free State and Lawrence high schools has surfaced again.

There is no strong groundswell for change, but school board members, including some joining the board next month, are willing to look at the options.

School Board Member Bob Byers pointed out at Monday’s meeting that “boundaries are not permanent.” That’s true, but boundary changes have an impact on students and families and, when the board makes a change, it should be for a good reason.

The high schools’ lone dividing line — the one that has stood for all 14 years since Free State opened northwest of Sixth Street and Folks Road — runs along 15th Street and Bob Billings Parkway. Students who live north of the boundary line attend Free State and those who reside to the south go to Lawrence High.

The east-west line was established in an effort to provide a relatively equal racial and socio-economic balance between the two schools. Nearly 15 years on, the decision appears to be a sound one, even if a good number of elementary school students split up for the three years of junior high before rejoining their friends and classmates in high school.

Maybe because of the junior high years, when some students make new friends who later go on to a different high school, our community’s public high school students are more friendly with those who attend their “rival” school. Along the way, they have been in clubs together, were teammates in sports and played in the same band. So, when they look across the football field during the annual Lawrence-Free State game, they see friends.

Are there advantages to having all students from a given elementary school also attend the same junior high and high school? Maybe, but such a strategy also could lead to inequities from school to school, especially at the junior high and high school levels.

Today, Lawrence High has more students than Free State and a higher percentage of students who qualify for free and reduced lunches and more minority students. That is a situation the community should monitor, but it’s not necessarily a negative. If those factors affect student achievement, district officials should look at a variety of ways to address those concerns.

School board members can look at academics, demographics and other factors and see if there are any consistent trends that a high school boundary change might improve, but changes in the 15th Street line shouldn’t be undertaken lightly.

The entire community must benefit from whatever moves are made.


David Holroyd 7 years ago

So wait until the third high school is built.

Diagonal line is the way. Why didn't the staff editorial give factual reasons why the line should not be changed?

mom_of_three 7 years ago

a diagonal line? don't know of any streets that are diagonal across town. Talk about confusing.
I think the article gave sufficient reasons as to why it should not be changed.

sickofdummies 7 years ago

Just because something has been done for 14 years, is not 'sufficient reason.' There were good reasons why the line was drawn the way it was, but the board needs to reassess to determine if those goals are still being met. If they are not, then change needs to be made. Those of us who live 2 minutes from one school, but must go 15-20 minutes to the other school have a valid reason for complaint. Considering that everyone seems to be against an east-west line, and the north south doesn't work all that well geographically, a diagonal division actually seems like a good idea. Would love to see a breakdown of how that would work.
As far as feeder system schools, this is actually a very sucessful method and is helpful to kids socially during what tend to be difficult transitional years. I'd love for the lines to be evaluated to make sure that the kids are being served in the most beneficial way possible.

exlion 7 years ago

Which way should the diagnol be drawn? How about diagnolly from free state to LHS. Everyone on the southwest side goes to LHS. My guess is you don't like that, as those rich kids west of wakarusa would have to attend the ghetto school.

Tony Kisner 7 years ago

By engineering the right mix you could get the right grade statistics without actually improvement. Nice trick.

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