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Archive for Sunday, February 19, 2012

School consolidation group split on recommendation

February 19, 2012

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The school district should push for a bond that would keep all 14 Lawrence elementary schools open, cover deferred maintenance projects, eliminate portable classrooms and add capacity for full-day kindergarten.

That’s the heart of the recommendation coming out of half of the members of a working group that has been asked to find a way to close the district’s smallest elementary schools.

For more than five months, nearly 30 members of the Central and East Lawrence Elementary School Consolidation Working Group have debated the best way to do that. Their charge from the school board was to recommend a way to reduce six elementary schools — Cordley, Hillcrest, Kennedy, New York, Pinckney and Sunset Hill — down to three or four within the next two years.

That recommendation is due by the end of the week. With a deadline approaching and no consensus looming, at the last meeting the working group split into two philosophically different camps.

One group maintains that consolidation is needed but would not specifically name what schools should close. That group, which is comprised of Pinckney, Kennedy and Sunset Hill representatives, will discuss their recommendation on how to close schools tonight.

The other group, which met Saturday afternoon, has concluded that the district will never gain the support it needs to issue a bond if schools are closed. The group, which is formed of New York, Hillcrest and Cordley representatives, believes that two of the driving forces for school closures — a severe budget crunch and declining enrollment — have changed.

Here are some of the group’s major points:

• The district had $1 million remaining in its operational funds at the end of each of the past two fiscal years.

• Elementary enrollment is growing at double the previously expected rate with the growth concentrated in and around the schools considered for consolidation.

• Elementary schools no longer have large amounts of unused capacity.

• Closing any school would require more building, which would cost more than upgrading the schools up for consolidation.

• If consolidations were to occur, boundaries would change across the entire district.

The group also questioned how much money the district would really save by closing schools because much of the money would go toward mitigating the effect it would have on the schools’ at-risk students.

“Bottom line is we think the costs and harms pretty significantly outweigh the benefits we can get from closing schools,” Cordley parent Chuck Epp said.

Those costs included boundary changes, increase in class sizes, harm to at-risk students, disruption of the English as Second Language program and effect on historic neighborhoods.

The entire working group will meet for one last time Monday when two recommendations will be discussed. Those recommendations will then be presented to the school board Feb. 27.

Comments

Richard Heckler 2 years, 5 months ago

The model that spokesperson Chuck Epp put forth sounds appropriate thus far...

Although I would try to avoid a bond issue and work with current budget dollars that the personal property taxes provide. Work on a 3-4 year plan.

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KS 2 years, 5 months ago

It always amazes me that these folks have "deferred maintenance". What the heck have they been doing with the money they have had over the years? Obvioulsy not spending it correctly.

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IBike100 2 years, 5 months ago

The elementary schools have given rooms vacated by the 6th graders to the Boys and Girls Club- thus elemementary overcrowding. No bond issue is necessary. The next thing the "task force" will recommend will be a third high school. All of these needs could have easily been taken care of with the money illspent on highschool sports facilities. NO BOND!!!!

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Mike Myers 2 years, 5 months ago

That is the most simple minded comment I think I've ever read in this forum. Congratulations. Time to do some research my biker friend.

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Mike Myers 2 years, 5 months ago

Firstly, many of the rooms vacated by 6th graders are now occupied by All day kindergarten rather than BG club. Secondly, any space occupied.by BG club is space well used. Thirdly a bond is needed to remove portable classrooms, fix leaky roofs, purchase technology so our kids aren't left behind by the rest of the world ADA upgrades, and many more things. Fourth, never has the idea of a new high school come up in these talks. This group would be the first ones to say hell no to that.

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aryastark1984 2 years, 5 months ago

Just in case you are unclear. B&G club meets before and after school, not during. Yes, they do use some class rooms for homework time, but those classrooms are fully used during the school day as actual classrooms.

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Kookamooka 2 years, 5 months ago

What about allowing people to vote for two different bonds? One for a new megamentary that would destroy historic neighborhoods and one for deferred maintenance and the status quo. Whichever one passes, is the one the citizens of Lawrence prefer. If it's voted down, the kids are screwed. Don't vote it down.

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Mike Myers 2 years, 5 months ago

Current bonds are retiring. Your taxes aren't likely to go up. We agree Onthe need to address deferred maintenance though.

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Kookamooka 2 years, 5 months ago

Obviously One Eye Wilbur is childless and alone.

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4getabouit 2 years, 5 months ago

Somebody slip old OE Wilbur a sedative.

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Mike Myers 2 years, 5 months ago

I love that Wilbur likes to reference pigs. He must be an E.B. White fan. Can't be all bad.

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