As the new year begins, the Lawrence school district is gathering projections for how many more students will be expected to enroll in elementary schools during the next five years.
Even if it’s not clear which schools will be open then.
“We need these numbers for future planning, for facilities and for programs,” said Rick Doll, district superintendent. “It’s essential for us, from a planning standpoint.”
RSP & Associates Inc., hired two months ago, has compiled its preliminary report of enrollment projections for the district’s 14 elementary schools. The numbers are being studied by members of the Central and East Lawrence Elementary School Consolidation Working Group, an advisory panel charged with recommending how to consolidate two or three elementary schools during the next two years.
Among the projections that group members are reviewing:
- Overall elementary enrollment to reach 4,867 students in 2016-17, which would be an increase of 223 students, or 4.8 percent, from this year’s 4,644.
- Nine schools to see enrollment increases over the next five years: Broken Arrow, Cordley, Hillcrest, New York, Pinckney, Prairie Park, Schwegler, Sunflower and Woodlawn.
- Five schools to post declining enrollment during the next five years: Deerfield, Kennedy, Langston Hughes, Quail Run and Sunset Hill.
- Enrollment at four schools to be over capacity by the 2016-17 school year: Broken Arrow, Hillcrest, New York and Sunflower.
The numbers mean different things to different people, but RSP’s projections — based upon historical trends, building permit applications, home sales and other data — are gaining special attention from members of the working group.
The group includes representatives from the six schools identified last year both by another advisory panel and the Lawrence school board as candidates for consolidation: Cordley, Hillcrest, Kennedy, New York, Pinckney and Sunset Hill. The group’s recommendations are due to the school board by the end of January.
Proposals are starting to take shape. Representatives from Cordley, for example, have crunched the numbers and concluded that while the district could consider combining some schools in eastern Lawrence — Cordley and Kennedy, New York and Kennedy, or New York and Cordley — the prospect of closing a school in central Lawrence would not be appropriate, especially given that enrollments are forecast to rise.
While Cordley representatives acknowledge that the working group is supposed to recommend closing two or three schools, they say that the numbers no longer add up. The RSP report forecasts enrollment rising nearly twice as fast as the district had expected as recently as a year ago.
“We have found that it is not possible to fully meet this part of our charge while also following the other parts of our charge and while offering a responsible long-term plan in light of enrollment growth,” the Cordley representatives said, in their report outlining their proposed consolidation options.
The working group’s next meeting is set for 7 p.m. Monday at district headquarters, 110 McDonald Drive. Group members also are invited to attend and participate in the next board meeting, during which Rob Schwarz, RSP’s principal planner, will present his final projections and discuss methods for compiling them.
The board’s meeting is set for 7 p.m. Jan. 9 at district headquarters.