Letters to the Editor

Wrong approach

March 15, 2011


To the editor:

Parents at Wakarusa Valley School had the opportunity March 2 to meet with Lawrence Public Schools Superintendent Rick Doll and Chief Academic Officer Kim Bodensteiner during the school’s site council meeting. Doll discussed scenarios that may play out as a result of the district’s Elementary School Facility Vision Task Force’s report recommending the closing of Wakarusa and a short-term plan to consolidate up to six other elementary schools.

If the report’s recommendations are adopted as submitted, the Board of Education will close Wakarusa at the end of this school year. Further, they will move toward consolidating, in some fashion, Sunset Hill, Hillcrest, Pinckney, Cordley, Kennedy and New York. Consolidation (read as close additional schools) would occur over the next few years.

During budget reductions last year, then board president Scott Morgan, proposed “mothballing” Wakarusa for a few years. According to Doll, this would still be the plan. In other words, Wakarusa may be reopened in a few years.

In summary, the task force is recommending:

  1. Close one school now that meets facility requirements, and needs no immediate updates or repairs, which will be reopened later.

  2. Update for ADA compliance and repair schools that will soon be consolidated (closed).

  3. Build new schools.

Let’s summarize the summary: Close a school this year that will reopen in a few years, while keeping open schools that will be closed in a few years.

As granddad would have said, “That is just backasswards.”


Richard Heckler 7 years ago

The Task Force did a great deal of research, study and fact‐finding in order to have a comprehensive understanding of the complex issues presented by our district’s elementary facilities. Following this gathering of information, the Task Force refined many recommendations, goals and thoughts down to 12 basic criteria or goals that we used in reaching consensus and which we believe should be used going forward .

The district should: • Fully utilize elementary school locations before constructing new schools at new locations, • Plan for a capacity of approximately 300 to 500 students at all elementary schools, • Plan for equity in terms of learning environments across the district, • Plan for all‐day kindergarten at all schools in the future, • Eliminate all portables at elementary schools, • Plan for flexibility to accommodate changes to programs in the future, • Plan for investment to address aging facilities, • Deploy services in a differentiated manner such that all schools receive the services and programs they need, • Strive to create and maintain schools that embody such a community that every school is a community school, • Ensure that as many children as possible are able to walk or bike to school if they choose to do so, • Incorporate best practices that research suggests have a greater impact on student achievement than school and class size, • Plan to provide minimum 720 square foot classrooms for grades 1‐5 and 900 square foot classrooms for Kindergarten in existing schools.

Richard Heckler 7 years ago

Save $3 million on bussing? Something to think about:

USD 497 budgets $4-4.5 million to bus students. The district is charged at a daily rate depending on how many students use the transportation.

Parents would you be willing to find other means to get your students to school IF it meant keeping all the schools open, keeping teachers employed and retaining important subject matter/programs?

Think car pooling,family members ,walking and biking.

USD 497 says it needs $3 million. Can WE come up with $3 million?

IF 75% of students were no longer bussed: 75% of $4,000,000 = $3,000,000 (million) 75% of $4,500,000 = $3,375,000

Tearing down existing buildings = waste of existing resources

Tearing down 4 buildings to build 2 new larger buildings makes about as much sense as USD 497 buying 75 unimproved acres for $23,000 an acre(did not make sense).

Richard Heckler 7 years ago

Parents could check into the T for getting children to school. Public school students are riding the T as we speak.

Instead of closing educational buildings how about we close the admin building and place that property on the market? This should bring a few million whenever....

BOE Meetings could be held in the Centennial or East Heights gymnasium. In fact Centennial Gym could be a permanent BOE meeting place. Plenty of school rooms available for admin space.

independent_rebel 7 years ago

I'd NEVER allow a grade-school-aged child to ride the T unsupervised. There are some seedy people on that bus.

beaujackson 7 years ago

The 497 administration & SB have a history of closing quality schools instead of non-compliant inferior ones. E.g.: closing Centennial in lieu of Cordley.

This administration has no concept of a "neighborhood school" because they have no concept of what makes a "neighborhood" , i.e., families (with kids).

Closing all central Lawrence elementary schools will automatically turn all of central Lawrence into KU rental housing and, eventually, into a giant rental slum which will then be rezoned multi-family. Sound like "Aggieville"?

Synjyn Smythe 7 years ago

Mr. Kidder: That is absolutely the bottom line here. One must question if there actually is a $3 million shortfall if, indeed, taskforce members felt comfortable recommending closure of a school that will result in net savings of only $351K. Either the taskforce was privy to some shortfall number substantially less than the $3 million the public is being given, or the taskforce was farcical. Why would any fiscally responsible adult encourage our community to invest millions of dollars in schools that even Jessica Beeson and SONS have agreed should be closed in 3-5 years?? Answer: it won't happen without a bond issue, and taxpayers won't support an extravagant bond issue to fund two or more new schools! All the SONS schools are safe under this analysis!! Ms. Beeson is a smart cookie!!!!

Flap Doodle 7 years ago

"Can WE come up with $3 million?" Open up your checkbook & knock yourself out, bub.

gr3sam 7 years ago

If the report’s recommendations are adopted as submitted, the Board of Education are idiots! Closing Waky eliminates the only outlet for crowding at Broken Arrow, Langston Hughes and Sunflower. It also requires substantial bussing that would effectively cost two or three teaching positions. Finally, it doesn't even put a dent in the supposed $3 million deficit. Best interests of our kids?

4yourinfo 7 years ago

Elementary children are going to be on packed school buses with older children getting an education on things they shouldn't until later in life!

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