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.