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Archive for Tuesday, January 3, 2012

School consolidation group seeks more time to turn in report

Josh Davis, a member of the Central and East Lawrence Consolidation Working Group, categorizes condensed options previously forwarded by representatives from six schools identified as candidates for potential consolidation: Cordley, Hillcrest, Kennedy, New York, Pinckney and Sunset Hill. Davis, a representative from New York School, was among more than two dozen group members who met Monday, Jan. 2, 2012, at Lawrence school district headquarters, 110 McDonald Drive.

Josh Davis, a member of the Central and East Lawrence Consolidation Working Group, categorizes condensed options previously forwarded by representatives from six schools identified as candidates for potential consolidation: Cordley, Hillcrest, Kennedy, New York, Pinckney and Sunset Hill. Davis, a representative from New York School, was among more than two dozen group members who met Monday, Jan. 2, 2012, at Lawrence school district headquarters, 110 McDonald Drive.

January 3, 2012

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Time is running out for members of an advisory group assigned to recommend which two or three elementary schools should close during the next couple years.

After group members spent more than two hours Monday night discussing ideas, options and processes without coming to conclusions — about which scenarios might deserve further study by a consultant, or whether certain possibilities should get a closer look, or exactly how such suggestions should be judged — they soon acknowledged that they have only two meetings left before their assigned report is due to the Lawrence school board.

And that led to at least one thing members of the Central and East Lawrence Elementary School Consolidation Working Group could agree on: It’s time to seek an extension.

“It doesn’t hurt to ask,” said Josh Davis, a representative for New York School.

Group members have been working since early September to come up with a plan that would reduce a list of six elementary schools — Cordley, Hillcrest, Kennedy, New York, Pinckney and Sunset Hill — down to either three or four within two years, as directed by the board.

The seven-member board formally will receive the group’s request for an extension this coming Monday night, and two board members who attended the group’s meeting, Bob Byers and Keith Diaz Moore, indicated during a break that it was likely the board would grant the request.

“I’d rather get something right than something rushed,” Diaz Moore said.

The request for the ability to stretch its work beyond the Jan. 31 deadline is the lone issue the group will be taking to the board during the board’s next meeting, which is set for 7 p.m. Monday at district headquarters, 110 McDonald Drive.

Kelly Jones, a group member from the Cordley community, had sought the group’s permission to seek a change in the group’s charge. Her suggestion: Ask the board if it would be OK to recommend closing only one school, rather than two or three.

“Maybe that would help us narrow — make it easier for this group to move forward in a more streamlined way,” Jones said.

The idea stirred discussion, including worry about the flip side: If the board were to reject such a request, then the group would have clear reaffirmation that the group should recommend closure of two or three schools.

“If you don’t want the answer,” said Dawn Shew, a representative from Kennedy, “don’t ask.”

The group’s work follows recommendations another advisory group, the Lawrence Elementary School Facility Vision Task Force, which met for eight months before recommending to close Wakarusa Valley School and to plan for closure of two or three others through consolidation. The school board had approved those recommendations, including formation of the working group to recommend by the end of January which other schools to close.

Rick Doll, district superintendent, declined to speculate Monday about what the board might do if faced with various recommendations — or lack of recommendations — that would not meet the terms of the group’s assignment.

The board, after all, has the final say in all decisions regarding which schools stay open and which ones close, if any.

“Inaction by this group doesn’t necessarily mean that nothing’s going to happen,” Doll said to the group.

The working group’s next scheduled meeting is 7 p.m. Jan. 16 at district headquarters. The last scheduled meeting is set for Jan. 30, and members have agreed to “pencil in” an additional meeting on Jan. 23, if necessary.

Comments

GardenMomma 2 years, 11 months ago

“'Inaction by this group doesn’t necessarily mean that nothing’s going to happen,' Doll said to the group."

Yep. And the Board doesn't have to follow any recommendation either. What does Rick Doll ultimately want? What does the Board really want?

Cogito_Ergo_Es 2 years, 11 months ago

  1. Doll wants to close schools and the recommendation from administration will certainly be that.
  2. The board is divided. I think some of the newer members would be in favor of keeping all schools open. There still remain three members of the previous board who all voted to support the Elementary School Task Force recommendation to close Wakarusa last year and to close 2-3 more schools in the coming couple of years. If they flip their votes now they will look wishy-washy and it will invalidate the closing of Wakarusa Valley. That ought to really anger the families of Wakarusa Valley to have the political play that was their closure, thrown in their faces so readily. If they have truly changed their mind about the prudence of the recommendation then they need to reverse the entire thing. Keep all schools open and reopen Wakarusa. With the huge overcrowding at Broken Arrow and Sunflower, as a result, and the new projections recently put forth, anyone can see the decision to close Wakarusa was a poor one. http://www.usd497.org/Consolidation/documents/LawrenceProjections201112_ES.pdf Right now, Broken Arrow and Sunflower are over capacity. In the next four years Sunflower enrollment will jump by about 50 kids or nearly 19% ABOVE capacity. Broken Arrow will also jump about 50 kids and will then be 32% above capacity! In what reality does it make sense to have moved those kids into those schools and close the only relief valve the southwest side of Lawrence had? If I could sway the board (and I most certainly cannot) they need to put a stop to this whole mess, repeal last year's vote and put everything back the way it was. That is what is in our children's best interests. The money was never an issue. They magically had plenty as it turned out and now decisions are being made rapidly and rashly. This whole process is moving way too fast and for no good reason. They could hold off a while longer and see what happens. Enrollment district wide went up this year, which only means more money from the state. So, let's cool it on all these closures.

nativeson 2 years, 11 months ago

Enrollment numbers did go up, but the additional students will continue to be located in elementary districts that are outside the locations where schools are recommended for closure. These are decisions that many other districts are facing, and the outlook for school funding at the state level is flat.

My concern is that the task force will continue to delay any decision, and the legislature will allow local option budgets to be raised. Lawrence citizens will want to fund their schools, but more money will perpetuate an inefficient building system that will continue to have underutilized schools in the district.

Cogito_Ergo_Es 2 years, 11 months ago

That's what is in question. The projections would indicate that we don't really have 2-3 underutilized schools to close. Planning for the future is prudent even if these buildings would appear underutilized now. If they close now, knowing that enrollments are going up in 4 years, and then the district starts crying 'we need more buildings', the community is really going to let them have it! Planning has never been this district's strong suit. Now's the time to start. This is why I say take it slow and be sure we're doing this correctly.

FlawontheKaw 2 years, 11 months ago

Hey Cog, have you ever considered the Superintendent position. You sound like you would make an intelligent, open-minded, fair, and rational visionary for the district. Thanks for the empassioned plea for our schools and more importantly, our children.

Cogito_Ergo_Es 2 years, 11 months ago

Thanks for the vote of confidence, Flaw! But, I feel my normally diplomatic self would be exceedingly strained were I to spend too much time at 110 MacDonald drive! I would be satisfied with a majority of school board members actually giving some of my ideas respectful consideration though. There's so much to worry about here. Well, you fight for what you know is right, don't you?

William Ed 2 years, 11 months ago

Doesn't anyone feel sorry for the Task Force? They were given the task of picking a school or schools to close. They were not given a goal of saving money, providing a better education for the kids, having a student teacher ratio for different grades, walking distance requirements, community health, etc. Just close some schools. The obvious solution, since the district never has figured out how much money they have or need, ie., close a school to save $450,000 and then "suddenly" have to comply with the state legislature's five year old law that freed up $3.3 million; incompetence, hubris or deliberateness? The Solution- Bring a roulette wheel to the next task force meeting, assign two numbers to all of the elementary schools (not just the six), let each member of the task force spin the wheel. The school that has the most hits gets recommended for closure, if two schools are "needed" to be closed add the school that has the next most hits. If the ball lands on one of the unpicked numbers or 0 or 00, then no schools are to be closed. As Cogito_ergo_es pointed out, any time any school in the district is closed, the impact is on every school. Once the school to be closed is identified it is a simple thing to redraw the boundaries so that every school is at 87% capacity. Now isn't that simple?? Every task force members has an input, and there is a plan that is workable...

Cogito_Ergo_Es 2 years, 11 months ago

Absolutely! This task force and the 1.0 version as well. These poor people are sent through the wringer and have what to show for it? It's a political move by administration and I'm pretty sure they know these folks can't reach consensus, so they'll just go ahead and pick whatever schools they want to close anyway. It's a huge shame, they've devoted so much of their time and lives to this flawed process. I do feel for them.

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