Archive for Monday, November 28, 2011

Four scenarios surface as possibilities for consolidating elementary schools

Members of the Central and East Lawrence Elementary School Consolidation Working Group — including, seated at table, from right, Josh Davis, Alison Nye, Stella Murphy, Chris Lempa and others — listen as facilitators outline various "scenarios" suggested for consideration. The presentation, during a meeting Nov. 21, 2011, included discussions of where students might go under a variety of options for consolidating elementary schools.

Members of the Central and East Lawrence Elementary School Consolidation Working Group — including, seated at table, from right, Josh Davis, Alison Nye, Stella Murphy, Chris Lempa and others — listen as facilitators outline various "scenarios" suggested for consideration. The presentation, during a meeting Nov. 21, 2011, included discussions of where students might go under a variety of options for consolidating elementary schools.

November 28, 2011


Ideas are emerging for consolidating elementary schools in the Lawrence school district, including two ideas that would combine New York and Kennedy schools at an expanded, and possibly relocated, site of the former East Heights School.

Representatives from four schools met a Sunday deadline for submitting initial scenarios for discussion next week by the Central and East Lawrence Elementary School Consolidation Working Group.

The group is charged with recommending a plan, by the end of January, for reducing a list of six elementary schools to either three or four within the next couple of years. The candidates for consolidation are Cordley, Hillcrest, Kennedy, New York, Pinckney and Sunset Hill schools.

The working group is made up of smaller subgroups, representing each of the consolidation candidates, plus Woodlawn School.

Kennedy’s subgroup met Sunday and “hammered out” a scenario that would close both Kennedy and New York, with hopes for seeing that a new, larger school — either at or adjacent to East Heights, which closed in 2003, became an early-childhood center and now is home to Boys and Girls Club of Lawrence programs — would allow for inclusion of a full-time nurse, a full-time social worker, a full-time assistant principal and other needs.

“It’s tough. It’s really tough,” said Tim Laurent, a member of the working group representing Kennedy, where his wife and two older children attended; his youngest child is now in fourth grade there. “I don’t think any of us are exceptionally happy: ‘Yeah, let’s close Kennedy. Let’s close New York.’

“If we had our druthers, it’d be, ‘Let’s keep both of those open and get the kids the resources they need.’ But that wasn’t the charge.”

Earlier this year, the Lawrence school board formed the working group to recommend a consolidation plan — itself an outgrowth from a community task force that suggested consolidation as the best way to provide quality elementary education during challenging budget times.

Monday night, members of the overall working group will discuss four consolidation scenarios that came from four of the subgroups representing particular schools, as follows:

• Kennedy: Close Kennedy and New York and consolidate the bulk of those students — all of Kennedy’s and most of New York’s — at a new school, which would be built on a site at or near the former East Heights School, 1430 Haskell Ave. Hillcrest and Sunset Hill would be combined at an expanded or new school at the Sunset Hill site, with some of Hillcrest’s English as a Second Language students being sent to Cordley, which also would be expanded.

• Pinckney: Essentially the same recommendation as Kennedy’s group, with one major difference: While Kennedy would retain Kennedy’s early-childhood program by including it at the new school, Pinckney’s group would recommend moving those kids to one of the two school buildings recommended for closure: Hillcrest or New York. Another possibility: Instead of calling for construction of a new school, the district could close New York and split those kids between Kennedy and Pinckney.

• Sunset Hill: Expand Sunset Hill, which the school’s representatives say could be accomplished without disruption to the existing school, while closing Pinckney, a site considered too small for expansion and whose students would move to Hillcrest. An expanded Sunset Hill also would welcome some students from Sunflower, easing enrollment pressures there. Broken Arrow could become a site for English as a Second Language students. The Sunset Hill group did not suggest any other schools to be consolidated.

• Hillcrest: Expand Hillcrest so that it could accommodate more students, which would come from Sunset Hill. Others from Sunset Hill could be sent to Quail Run School. The group did not identify any other schools to be consolidated.

Subgroups from Cordley and New York schools have not turned in potential scenarios.

While Laurent acknowledges that the “Kennedy Proposal” might work — “We wouldn’t have put it together if we didn’t think it at least made some sense,” he said — the ideas it contains simply are intended to serve as an opportunity to begin discussions that, until now, have been focused more on process and less on possibilities.

“It’s just one proposal,” Laurent said. “We definitely want to hear (from others). I’m very interested in what the other groups come up with.

“There’s a lot of smart people in that room. I want to see what they have to say.”

The overall working group meets at 7 p.m. next Monday at district headquarters, 110 McDonald Drive.


Boston_Corbett 6 years, 2 months ago

Hasn't Merrill turned in his New York school proposal??

Boston_Corbett 6 years, 2 months ago

Hasn't Merrill turned in his New York school proposal??

Steve Jacob 6 years, 2 months ago

Doesn't help Kennedy that it needs a new roof.

budwhysir 6 years, 2 months ago

build build build,,,, thats all we have to do. Build and they will come. Close and they will leave....

beaujackson 6 years, 2 months ago

Young families with children continue to leave Lawrence because of high housing costs and taxes, and many have fled to the neighboring towns of Eudora, Tonganoxie, and Baldwin.

Overpriced housing, especially in central Lawrence is caused by renting to KU students. 3, 4 (or more) students will pay at least double what a family can afford.

Flawed zoning encourages conversion of single family zoned areas into student rentals, which has ruined much of Lawrence for family living - socially and economically.

This is why the elementary school system continues to loose elementary enrollment in central Lawrence.

Most families in SF zoning do not want KU student rentals in their neighborhoods, but the city commission doesn't have the guts to limit the number of students renting in SF zoning to two (2).

This forces families out of their own SF zoned neighborhoods, and is why Lawrence elementary schools are closing.

Fewer kids need fewer schools.

Richard Heckler 6 years, 2 months ago

There has been a ton of new single family residential construction near East Heights since all of this nonsense began in 2003.

The cost of housing in Lawrence has been inflated for at least 15 years which of course keeps personal property taxes high ====== can we say back door tax increases?

The fact of the matter is there is no fiscal hard evidence supporting the closing then building new buildings as a tool for saving tax dollars. This concept will demand more driving which to me is counter productive when considering the damage to the ozone layer.

The ozone damage will require 60 years to repair IF all the right steps were in place as we speak. More pollution = more ozone layer damage.

Nikki May 6 years, 2 months ago

That's exactly how I read it too. I was going to comment as such, but your summation was perfect so I'm "+1" on this.

bd 6 years, 2 months ago

The new sports facilities are really paying off! What a waste!

Clevercowgirl 6 years, 2 months ago

Cordley is silent because:

A. They are well represented on the School Board (Hail Mary pass to come).

B. It makes no sense to keep Cordley open under the criteria set.

C. They are waiting to turn it into a Magnet School?

Only in Lawrence would we spend so much time and effort consolidating a school system, when closing Cordley, maintenance and simple boundary adjustments would do.

aryastark1984 6 years, 2 months ago

Both Cordley and Hillcrest are ELL (ESL) cluster sights. Federal education law states that if you close a cluster school, those kids have to move en masse to another cluster. There is literally no school that has space to accommodate either clusters from either Hillcrest OR Cordley + their own student population, let alone if you added HIllcrest/Cordley's non-ELL students. For this reason, all suggestions to close/consolidate either Hillcrest or Cordley would be a logistic nightmare. This is beside the point that setting up a successful cluster (like the ones at Hillcrest and Cordley) is actually quite difficult and would take some time to "get it right." In the mean time the ELL kids suffer academically.

For a while, the district appeared to be flirting with the idea that you could disband the clusters and send the students back to their "neighborhood schools". But, it turns out that this is not really practical. You apparently need >40 ELL students to make feasible a neighborhood ELL program (like the one a Schwegler). This is of course is beside the point that disbanding the clusters would actually be detrimental to the kids.

Clevercowgirl 6 years, 2 months ago

Closure or "consolidation" is traumatic and detrimental to most kids. I know this because I am living it. My kids went to Wakarusa.

aryastark1984 6 years, 2 months ago

Closing Wakarusa was a terrible decision. It was a terrific facility and students there did well. I don't blame you or any other Wakarusa parent for being angry.

That said, it does not make the prospect of closing an ESL cluster sight make any sense at all. These are coordinated programs that take time to establish. I don't think it makes sense to close any of these schools, but closing a cluster sight makes even less sense than other scenarios.

aryastark1984 6 years, 2 months ago

None of this makes any sense what so ever. #1 There is no available capacity. These schools are NOT under enrolled. #2 It appears that the East side is growing, not shrinking (which whas Scott Morgan's argument #3 The school funding formula is up in the air and the plan that seems most likely to pass would remove the cap on the local option budget (money that can go to operating costs). If that comes to pass, it would actually be far cheaper to make necessary repairs to our existing facilities and increase our operating budget, than it would be to build new schools in an effort to save operating costs.

Proceeding with this plan before we know how all of this is going to shake out is just bizarre and ultimately self-defeating.

chootspa 6 years, 2 months ago

The funding comes from difference sources, so it may not be cheaper, but it is easier. Actually, there's so many years of neglect on some of those schools that it may actually end up being both.

Plus we're going to have charters crammed down our throats by Brownie and ALEC, so the schools "closing" will mean that they'll be taken over by a private enterprise that gets to socialize the risks and privatize the benefits for starting a school that will do no better than the ones it replace and has a good chance of doing a lot worse. Wee!

aryastark1984 6 years, 2 months ago

Actually, many of the schools could be repaired for fairly small amounts of money-several need only roof repairs. All things being equal it would take many years to pay off the cost of a new school with the money you would save by closing an elementary school. We know from Wakarusa, that the district could expect to save (at most) less than a half a million x year by closing an elementary. Elementary schools are dirt cheap in terms of per pupil costs and our elementary students actually subsidize our middle and high schools.

What you are saying about the state's long term plans with ALEC may in fact be right. However, that is not in the near term. Removing caps on the LOB does appear to be in the offing.

Clevercowgirl 6 years, 2 months ago

The population of Lawrence is not growing. Shifting, yes, growing, no.

EJ Mulligan 6 years, 2 months ago

Agreed, Arya. Good to know there are rational thinkers on this issue out there yet...

EJ Mulligan 6 years, 2 months ago

Let's just not (consolidate) and say we did.

weeslicket 6 years, 2 months ago

ok, ok. i have the perfect solution !!

take all the kids from the new york neighborhood...... and bus them to wakarusa !!

(now bowing while accepting imaginary ovation)

Dawn Shew 6 years, 2 months ago

Lots of interesting reading here: (especially pages 1 and 16)

and here: (especially page 6)

If you have further questions about capacity, school make-up, etc.

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