Archive for Monday, February 27, 2012

Schools scenario shifts to boundaries

Six Lawrence elementary schools are being considered for consolidation. They are, clockwise from left, Sunset Hill, Kennedy, Hillcrest, New York, Pinckney and Cordley Elementary.

Six Lawrence elementary schools are being considered for consolidation. They are, clockwise from left, Sunset Hill, Kennedy, Hillcrest, New York, Pinckney and Cordley Elementary.

February 27, 2012

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The question of consolidating Lawrence elementary schools is on hold, but what hasn’t gone away is the possibility of boundary changes.

Today, the Lawrence school board is expected to accept the recommendations that resulted from six months of work by the Central and East Lawrence Elementary School Consolidation Group. The board had asked the group 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.

In the end, the group split in half. One side believed the negative costs of consolidating outweighed the benefits. The other group said closing schools should remain a valid option, but they didn’t want to name which ones to close.

The two camps had some commonalities, one of which was that boundaries would have to change if all elementary schools were going to stay open. They just disagreed as to what extent those boundaries changes would have to occur.

Representatives from Kennedy, Pinckney and Sunset Hill, who believed closing schools could improve the district, said boundary changes needed to happen soon. In their recommendation to the board, they noted that the district’s solution of using portable classrooms to accommodate students in schools that have reached capacity isn’t sustainable.

“In order to even out enrollment districtwide, freeing up space in some facilities, while filling seats in those schools with extra capacity, the school board must begin an immediate analysis of boundary shifts that could be implemented as early as fall 2012,” the recommendation reads.

The group goes on to state that boundary shifts are a normal and realistic part of school district management.

The other group, which was made up of New York, Cordley and Hillcrest parents and advocated for no school closings, also saw the need for boundary changes. In their discussions, however, they stressed that there should be minor shifts that would be far less intrusive than the ones consultants proposed while looking at possible consolidation scenarios. In those scenarios, nearly every school would see its boundary shift.

“While enrollment growth may require boundary changes in any event, the boundary changes and overcrowding would be much greater if schools are closed rather than upgraded,” their recommendation stated.

School board members aren’t anticipating a lengthy conversation today when they accept the working group’s recommendations.

“I would like some time to digest what they have recommended,” board member Shannon Kimball said. “There are lots and lots of unanswered questions in my mind on a number of things that could potentially influence where the board goes with this recommendation.”

One of those questions would be boundary changes, Kimball said.

Changing boundaries would be difficult, Kimball acknowledged and noted that for the families affected, it’s akin to closing a school.

“When you change the boundary, you are changing a student’s school,” she said.

School board member Rick Ingram, who is on the district’s boundary committee, admits there is a reluctance to change boundaries.

But he, too, sees the need for boundary changes in the future to ease the pressure of overcrowding at schools such as Broken Arrow and Sunflower. He said, however, that those shifts would be nothing like the boundary changes proposed by the consultants during consolidation talks.

“I really think those were pretty Draconian,” he said.

He hopes those shifts can be made far enough in advance so students wouldn’t have to change schools.

“I liked students to be grandfathered into the school, so even if the boundary changed, the student would be unaffected until they leave for the next school,” Ingram said.

Boundary changes or not, Kimball said the district needs to better plan for its elementary schools.

“That is the one thing that is abundantly clear from all the discussions we have had,” she said. “We need to be visionary instead of reactionary.”

Comments

Pamela Shanks 3 years, 6 months ago

Imagine that. Broken Arrow is overcrowded. I wonder if that has anything to do with closing Wakarusa Valley? Whatever they do, those children SHOULD NOT have to change schools again. Either long range planning is harder than we all can imagine, or the decision to close WV and bus those students in to BA was very, very poor.

Mr_Moderate 3 years, 6 months ago

Let's be clear about one thing: if boundary changes are necessary, it's because of OVERCROWDING DUE TO SCHOOL CLOSINGS: yes, the currently overcrowded schools are the ones that received Wakarusa Valley students. So, it is not accurate to say that "boundaries would have to change if all elementary schools were going to stay open." Instead, the more schools closed, the more that boundaries would have to change. The students have to go somewhere, and wherever they go their new school will be overcrowded--and so boundary changes become necessary. And if any boundary changes are necessary now, even without closing more schools, this will be because closing Wakarusa Valley school last year produced overcrowding in the schools that got WV students.

irvan moore 3 years, 6 months ago

i thought it was nice that the idea of grandfathering students at a school is being considered, it's one of the few times i can remember agreeing with a board members idea

kuguardgrl13 3 years, 6 months ago

If you're going to change boundaries, grandfathering is a pointless idea. Parents won't want their child changing schools or any children who enter school after the change has happened. I've been through boundary changes, and trust me the kids are fine. If you move neighborhoods, then kids are still going to school with other children they know. Plan events for before the new school year starts for students to meet each other and parents to meet teachers. Changing elementary boundaries really shouldn't effect middle school or high school enrollments in the future. If anything, children will meet others that they might not have otherwise gotten to know. Every school district has to make changes, and if you allow parents to say no the changes are negated. With Wakarusa Valley closing, logically WV kids should've gone to Sunflower, and SF kids probably should've been moved to Langston Hughes and Quail Run. But of course LH kids are perfect little angels and need tiny classes. Vote for boundaries that geographically make sense!!

DAW 3 years, 6 months ago

Do you have students at Langston Huges? I would suggest that you check your facts. Langston has some of the largest classes in the district.

kuguardgrl13 3 years, 6 months ago

I stand corrected. However, Sunflower still has larger enrollment than Langston Hughes. Sunflower has 91 Kindergartners this year alone. Broken Arrow also saw their numbers go up after Wakarusa Valley was closed. The point I was trying to make is that I don't quite understand (other than numbers) why WV kids were sent way over to Broken Arrow. In the last ten years, the district has closed six elementary schools. We're only just now starting to see the effects of closing schools without adjusting boundaries in a way that makes sense.

Laura Wilson 3 years, 6 months ago

What's the point of changing boundaries to reduce the number of students in overcrowded schools if you then grandfather in all those students?

I rode a bus here in Lawrence for elementary school and the thirty minute ride home (because I was one of the last ones dropped off) didn't kill me. We're not a huge city that takes hours to get around by vehicle. Why aren't we busing kids to half empty schools?!

Cant_have_it_both_ways 3 years, 6 months ago

Avoid the hard decisions and just move the goal posts.

deec 3 years, 6 months ago

Reopen WV and a lot of the overcrowding problem is solved.

KSChick1 3 years, 6 months ago

when my daughter was in kindergarten and 1st grade she attended Broken Arrow. We moved to East Lawrence and she was sent to East Heights although I tried and tried to get her into Kennedy. So 2nd and 3rd grade she was at East Heights. Then they closed it and she got sent to Kennedy anyway. Very disruptive to her educationally and personally. I thought it was ridiculous to have her in 3 elementary schools especially since we moved into the Kennedy district. It was 4 minutes from our house going south, where East Heights was 10 minutes west. I also think the boundaries are screwed up even now. We live 1.45 miles from Central Jr. High and yet she was not able to take the bus because you had to live 1.5 miles from the junior high to be bus-eligible. When she was at LHS, we lived 2.2 miles from the school but she couldn't ride as you had to live 2.5 miles away to be bus-eligible. Who comes up with this stuff? Is it based on reality? Yeah maybe a high school student should be able to walk 2.5 miles to school but have you tried that in Kansas with our weather? UGH! so not happy with the Lawrence school district. Glad Dr. Ingram is there to be a voice of reason. I hope the board listens to him.

DAW 3 years, 6 months ago

Ingram, the voice of reason? Reason would not lead me to conclude that a solution to over crowed schools is to change boundaries and then grandfather students back to the same school. Ingram also needs to broaden his perspective and begin to examine what happens to larger schools when you keep the smaller schools open. He was elected to support all of the Lawrence Schools, not just the smaller ones.

GMom05 3 years, 6 months ago

He was elected to represent the wishes of the voters, as all politicians are. There is no shortage of educated people in Lawrence. We don't need 'Father' telling us what's best for us. We know what's best for our children and are more than capable of making those decisions. However, we cannot all be on the school board, can we? The new board members were all elected for this express purpose, to keep the neighborhood schools open. They ran on what was effectively a SONS platform and the constituents voted them in because of it. Now, that it looks like we'll be disregarding the original task force recommendation and not closing 2-3 more schools, we need to repeal the ENTIRE task force recommendation and reopen Wakarusa. There is no reason Wakarusa should stand as the solitary sacrifice in this battle. Or any reason, the children of Waky, Sunflower, and Broken Arrow should suffer any more. Ok, folks, let's get to work.

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