Archive for Monday, September 19, 2011

Departure of sixth-graders opens up space for Lawrence elementary schools

September 19, 2011


Providing full-day kindergarten. Boosting gifted education. Selling portable classrooms.

The Lawrence school district’s movement of sixth-grade classes into middle schools this year has allowed elementary schools to stretch out, branch out and — at times — stop stressing out about their space needs.

“The kids actually get their playground back,” said Julie Donley, secretary at Hillcrest School, which bid farewell to one of its portables this summer thanks to the extra room inside. “It’s a lot more open. The kids don’t have to worry about running into each other.”

Here’s a rundown of how each school handled the departure of their sixth-grade classes, moves that opened up space in each building:

• Broken Arrow, 2704 La.: Two open rooms are filled with two additional kindergarten classes that formed this year, with the addition of full-day kindergarten. An additional first-grade class moved into a resource classroom, a program eliminated because federal stimulus funding no longer is available. “We’re utilizing every space in our building,” Principal Brian McCaffrey said.

• Cordley, 1837 Vt.: Two open rooms allowed for grade levels to relocate within the building and to accommodate an additional third-grade class this year. The other open room now is occupied for resource programs, which previously had found space in a former principal’s office on the second floor or a staircase that leads to nowhere.

• Deerfield, 101 Lawrence Ave.: Three open rooms are all spoken for, through rearranging to accommodate: a fourth third-grade class, plus special-education and gifted services. Relocating the programs opened other space for a sensory room and for a counselor to move out of a portable classroom, which has been sold.

• Hillcrest, 1045 Hilltop Drive: Two open rooms enabled relocations that ended with addition of a second-grade class and elimination of a two-room portable classroom.

• Kennedy, 1605 Davis Road: The school’s one open classroom is spoken for with the addition of two classes — one for kindergarten and one for fifth grade — and the loss of one class for fourth grade.

• Langston Hughes, 1101 George Williams Way: Three open classrooms led to a reorganization that accommodated the addition of a first-grade class and relocation of books, gifted education and a computer lab to larger spaces.

• New York, 936 N.Y.: One open classroom made room for an additional fifth-grade class. The school also gained a second-grade class, but lost a fourth-grade class. All 10 classrooms in the school are being used as classrooms.

• Pinckney, 810 W. Sixth St.: Two open rooms now are home to fifth-grade classes, with the former fifth-grade rooms going to two uses: Title 1 math and enrichment programs that met in a hallway last year now have their own room; the other room is occupied by the school’s autism consultant group, the school psychologist and a social worker.

• Prairie Park, 2711 Kensington Road: Two open rooms enabled a relocation to accommodate autism and special education programs in a room — instead of a conference room — and music therapy and special education in another.

• Quail Run, 1130 Inverness Drive: Three open classrooms allowed for the school’s autism cluster program to relocate, opening up space for an additional third-grade class. One room is now a sensory room, with treadmills and other equipment and materials for students who need them; another room is a meeting room that doubles as the central meeting space for the Boys and Girls Club program at the school.

• Schwegler, 2201 Ousdahl Road: The three open rooms are filled, as the school added a class in each of three grades: first, third and fifth.

• Sunflower, 2521 Inverness Drive: Three open rooms allowed the school to accommodate two additional kindergarten teachers, now that the school offers full-day kindergarten. The school also added a first-grade class and a third-grade class, meaning that an ESL classroom was split up and moved into two sites: a room in the library and a small office that had been used by a social worker, who retired.

• Sunset Hill, 901 Schwarz Road: Two open rooms made room inside for both fifth-grade classes, which had been sharing a two-room portable outside. The portable now is used for extended space art and as a special-education conference room and office space for the school psychologist.

• Woodlawn, 508 Elm St.: Two open rooms spurred a reorganization that made room for an additional fourth-grade class, and to move music classes into the building from a portable classroom outside.


aryastark1984 6 years, 9 months ago

Tell me again why we need consolidation? This report suggests that there are not many empty seats, anywhere!
The consolidation plan was predicated on several assumptions: 1) that there was available capacity in East side schools 2) that closing an elementary school would save A LOT of money 3) that consolidating schools would not harm academic achievement (which would then require the district to pump a bunch of money into a low performing school in a never ending whack-a-mole funding game).

Assumption 1) These data suggest otherwise Assumption 2) The district has thus far failed to demonstrate that closing Wakarusa saved a substantial amount of money. Assumption 3) Despite the work of fiction in the consolidation report, a wealth of empirical data shows that smaller schools and smaller class sizes are one of the only predictors of achievement that the district can directly control.

funkdog1 6 years, 9 months ago

Consolidation is not about empty seats. Consolidation is about saving money. If they can close schools, that's additional principals they don't have to pay, electricity and water bills they don't have to pay, janitors they don't have to pay, mowing they don't have to do, sidewalks that don't have to be cleared in winter, etc., etc., etc.

Bob Forer 6 years, 9 months ago

Or they could simply distribute the kids more evenly among all of the existing schools, thereby further alleviating an apparent overcrowding problem in some schools, and also reduce class sizes. No one would lose their jobs and neighborhoods would not lose their schools. Only problem would be a small minority of bigoted and snobish middle class white parents complaining about their children's "Low rent" classmates.

As far as saving money, there are plenty of ways that have yet to be explored, such as the top heavy central administration and the crazed infacuation with sports.

aryastark1984 6 years, 9 months ago

Oh I get the financial rationale, but I think the logic is bogus.

If your goal is to save money, you need to ask your self whether the cost savings are really worth the money spent. Assume for a moment that you save 350,000 x year by closing an elementary school. That is probably tops-because schools share janitors and kids will flush the toilet the same number of times, regardless of where they go to school, and a larger school will have a larger light bill-because the laws of physics specify that it takes more energy to light a larger number of square feet (except in the case of Broken Arrow -which has few exterior windows, vs. Wakarusa-which had ample natural light, but I digress). Now, let’s say you build a new school. I don't know how much a new school costs, but let's assume it is in the 15-20 million dollar ball park. Now, how many years do you need to amortize the cost savings to get pay back? I will leave it to you to do the math.

BTW, I understand the difference between operating costs vs. capital outlay. But, when you think about the downstream ramifications of consolidations, the benefits are less clear. If we are fiscally prudent and repair our current schools, which have been neglected so that we can build sports facilities for high school students, property taxes will go down. If we insist on building new schools, property taxes would be higher, AND the tax base will be further eroded. Teachers will lose their jobs (don’t kid yourself), as well as a principle, a lunch ladies, a school secretary, and maybe a janitor.

And BTW, the consolidation report AND the previous school board used "available capacity" as the justification for closing schools. And, the proponents of consolidation continue to use that rationale despite the fact (pointed out by Ingram) that the greatest excess capacity was in two schools that are not part of the consolidation plan, Prarie Park and Quail Run. Now I think that is curious, don't you?

Bob Forer 6 years, 9 months ago

"the greatest excess capacity was in two schools that are not part of the consolidation plan, Prarie Park and Quail Run. Now I think that is curious, don't you?"

Not only is it curious, but it borders on a benign sort of racism. The schools under scrutiny for possible closing are where most of the kids of color attend, whereas Prairie Park and Quail Run are pretty much lily white, and of course, much more "upscale."

its business as usual. Screw the poor and working glass. Simply because they do it will a smile on their face and under the guise of "advisory committees" doesn't make it any less contemptible.

weeslicket 6 years, 9 months ago

i read this article a few times, and also the commentary. (hurray for me)

if i may make a generalization: it seems, on the basis of the factual information in this article, that the schools which are slated to "consolidate", have the least room to provide for new students (i.e., consolidation). and also, that the schools that have the most room to provide for new students, are not on the list for "consolidation".

i just find that odd. very odd indeed.

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