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Archive for Thursday, September 8, 2011

Questions, answers ahead for group considering school consolidation

September 8, 2011

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Nearly three dozen teachers, parents and others invested in the future of six Lawrence elementary schools being considered for consolidation gathered Wednesday evening to pose question after question after question about the effort’s potential effects on kids, the evidence being used to make decisions, and the financial implications of closing either two or three schools within two or three years.

Turns out the dozens of queries, taken together, provided a welcome answer for at least one member of the Lawrence school board.

“The order in which the topics came up from the working group focused on the academic program first, then facilities, then budget,” said Keith Diaz Moore, one of seven board members scheduled to review recommendations in February from the Central and East Lawrence Elementary School Working Group. “And that’s exactly how they should be focused. Their No. 1 priority should be doing what’s best for academic achievement. Their last concern should be the budget — because that’s the board’s domain.”

Diaz Moore and fellow board member Rick Ingram listened intently alongside principals, Lawrence school district staffers and others in the audience as members of the working group conducted their first working meeting.

The group’s assigned task: Come up with a recommended plan for consolidating six elementary schools — Cordley, Hillcrest, Kennedy, New York, Pinckney and Sunset Hill — into either three or four within two to three years. That recommendation came earlier this year from a volunteer task force and won unanimous endorsement from members of the previous school board as a viable plan for balancing the community’s educational values with ongoing budget constraints.

Wednesday night, members of the working group — representatives from each of the six schools, plus Woodlawn — spent most of their two-hour meeting asking for more information:

  • What would happen to the district’s English as a Second Language Program if Hillcrest and Cordley were to close, and what would happen to the district’s early-childhood program if Kennedy were to close?
  • Which schools have the most students who qualify for free and reduced-price lunches, and how would they be affected if their school or schools closed?
  • How much extra room is there remaining in each elementary school for more students now that sixth-grade students are in middle schools?
  • How much money, exactly, has the district saved by closing schools in the past, including Wakarusa Valley this past summer?

Answers will be expected in the coming weeks and months, as group members ponder consolidation issues while relying on information from district administrators, hired architects and others. Group members talked of starting an email list for distributing ideas and information, and possibly establishing an online forum where others could share their ideas and opinions.

Group members know they have plenty of work to do — work intended to help board members determine which schools might close, which could be upgraded or rebuilt, and how all the changes might get financed.

“We have 10 meetings to make something happen,” said David Unekis, appointed to the group as a representative of the Pinckney community.

The next is 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Sept. 19 at district headquarters, 110 McDonald Drive.

Comments

Cogito_Ergo_Es 3 years, 3 months ago

“The order in which the topics came up from the working group focused on the academic program first, then facilities, then budget,” said Keith Diaz Moore,... “And that’s exactly how they should be focused. Their No. 1 priority should be doing what’s best for academic achievement. Their last concern should be the budget"

Thank you folks, for finally putting the kids first.

"•How much money, exactly, has the district saved by closing schools in the past, including Wakarusa Valley this past summer?"

Again, thank you. I was wondering that myself.

Though Dr. Doll and the previous board members are fond of reminding us that this isn't about whether schools should close, but how, I would remind them that nothing is set in stone, including their positions. There are some of us that don't think our elementary children should suffer because they're trying to make a political point in order to walk away with some feather in their cap. I would contend that with four new board members serving, whether or not the Elementary School Task Force recommendation should be followed is still a topic up for discussion. This doesn't have to be a done deal folks, if people will stand up and call for its reversal.

GardenMomma 3 years, 3 months ago

And I would bet that if the task force had known about the $3 million that needed to be spent down, they would have voted quite differently!

Let's hope no information is withheld and all questions are answered honestly this time!

Cogito_Ergo_Es 3 years, 3 months ago

MIC, you must not have elementary aged children. You would take the short term fix if it meant that for one more year those children get to continue in the environment in which they are comfortable, which they call home, which is not overcrowded and chaotic, and it which they learn to read. If it was your first grader you would hope they could make it to 2nd grade in the place that is giving them the foundation needed to be successful for the rest of their lives. You would hope against hope that something would come around and eventually we'll see our way through this. And if not, you'd hope that someone who has no idea what the school means to your children and the other families doesn't come around and decide to rip it out from under you when it's convenient and easier for them. Closing schools should be the Very Last Course of Action!

Phone_Man 3 years, 3 months ago

There are already too many dumb people in Lawrence; most of them speed down K-10 but that is another story. We shouldn’t close anymore schools.

Phone_Man 3 years, 3 months ago

In fact we should open a few driving schools!

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