Archive for Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Firm maps out school consolidation group’s proposals

January 31, 2012


Rob Schwarz, a consultant with RSP, warned the community working group tasked with closing elementary schools in Lawrence that they were playing a game of chess. Move one piece, and the rest of the board shifts.

Two weeks ago, the group had forwarded on to RSP seven scenarios for closing or consolidating schools.

At a Monday night meeting, RSP, an educational planning firm based in the Kansas City area, came back with detailed maps on how three of those proposals would change boundaries, population numbers, English as second language clusters and the socio-economic mix of each school.

Langston Hughes and Woodlawn were the only two schools that didn’t see any boundary changes under the three scenarios. And Schwegler’s boundary would only shift under one proposal.

In every scenario, hundreds of the district’s students would end up attending a new school.

“It gives a whole lot of students the chance for a new school experience,” Cordley parent Chuck Epp said. “Put negatively, it moves a lot of kids around.”

The Central and East Lawrence Elementary School Consolidation Working Group has been asked by the school board to 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.

The three scenarios reviewed Monday were:

• Close New York and Kennedy and build a new school near 15th Street and Haskell Avenue.

• Close New York and send students to Cordley, Kennedy and Pinckney.

• Close Hillcrest and transfer students who speak English as a second language to Sunset Hill.

When considering what schools to close or consolidate, Schwarz said, the group was going to have to decide what to do with the district’s ESL clusters.

Right now, Hillcrest has 187 ESL students, and Cordley has 113. In the proposals to combine New York and Kennedy or to just close New York, the ESL students at Hillcrest would jump to 259. The number of students whose first language is English who live within Hillcrest boundaries would drop to between 50 and 70. That ratio left some group members uncomfortable.

But, other group members also didn’t like the idea of closing down Hillcrest and transferring what they considered to be a model ESL program to Sunset Hill.

Another major factor, Schwarz said, was looking at how much capacity the schools had left and which ones had room to grow.

Currently, Broken Arrow, Deerfield and Sunflower are at or approaching capacity. Then there are schools such as Prairie Park that are far below capacity. All three of the proposals on Monday had the Prairie Park boundary move south to pick up more students in the Broken Arrow school boundary. That was viewed as a positive change by many in the group.

ESL clusters and school capacity are key, Schwarz said.

“Until you address those issues, you are going to have difficulty in seeing what you want to see and ultimately, and you may not want to hear this, what is best for the district,” Schwarz said.

With four more proposals left to review and just two meetings remaining before the board’s Feb. 15 deadline, the group is short on time as it works to make a recommendation.

On Monday, Superintendent Rick Doll said that the group might be able to squeeze in an extra meeting between the deadline and when the school board would actually meet on Feb. 27.

The group will continue discussing scenarios at 7 p.m. Feb. 6.


kuguardgrl13 2 years, 2 months ago

Is the district really considering how the city will grow in the next 5-10 years? They seem to think that the growth will be on the west side when other sources project equal or more growth on the east side. Families of all economic and ethnic backgrounds are coming here. Also, what effect will changes at the elementary level have on the middle schools? High schools?


maudeandcecil 2 years, 2 months ago

NY is not far below capacity & RSP projects growth in its catchment. The NY building is on the small side & could use a few extra classrooms. It will likely have about the same number of students as KY, PY, & CY catchments within 5 years.

To P.Park, it has excess capacity because at the time it was built, the district & the city thought there would be more housing there. The administration's preferred elementary model is a 3 section buildings; I'm sure they thought that a development near K-10 would support a 450-500 student school. Maybe someday it might, but it seems unlikely in the near future.


LadyJ 2 years, 2 months ago

If Prairie Park is far below capacity, why not send some of the Kennedy kids there and the rest to New York? For that matter, why is Prairie Park "far below capacity"?


neddardstark 2 years, 2 months ago

I completely agree with you...unfortunately the suburbanization of the west side has left east side schools in an awkward position. I wish they could find something to do with NY school that would prevent it being mothballed and deteriorating from non-use. Someone suggest a while back that they should move the district offices from its current local on McDonald Ave--which I think is being rented-- to the NY building, which the district owns, in order to save money and keep the school in working oder should we ever find ourselves with a population large enough to reopen it as an actual school. I seriously doubt they would even consider something so drastic, but I hate to think about what will become of the facility if ceases to serve the surrounding community.

also, I don't think Langston Hughes attended NY school in its current incarnation--the building as it is now was built after he left Lawrence. Ironic though, that the building named after him is one of the least diverse in the district..


kuguardgrl13 2 years, 2 months ago

Why does nearly every plan call for the closing of New York and hardly any other school? Sure it's in a rough part of town, but the building is beautiful (probably one of the prettiest schools if you've never seen it) and is not run down (at least from the outside). The neighborhood is upset that they are likely going to lose their school and have a bus station taking over (see Channel 6 news for that one). I say keep the schools the way they are (maybe adjust boundaries to take pressure off of Broken Arrow) and use money to fix up our existing buildings. As others have said, the district won't save money by closing more schools anyway. And they really should ask former Wakarusa Valley kids how they feel in their new schools and how they would feel if forced to move again. Also, what will new elementary populations do to the middle schools? Will Central suddenly become empty and South and West be overflowing?


oneeye_wilbur 2 years, 2 months ago

What's the big fuss about new schools and salaries? There is plenty of money already but there is not competent management of the money. Anyway, Lawrence is going to become a retirement community. Old folks don't need schools, just meal sites, places to get their diapers changed, and a senior center big enough for the Free Hover rounds advertised on TV. Oh, and a big buffet with wide aisles for the battery operated carts.


wolfy 2 years, 2 months ago

Let’s not be misled here. What the board is considering are cost-shifting, not cost-saving, scenarios. In light of recent data, it is clear that any plan to close schools is necessarily a plan to raise taxes for new school construction. It is disingenuous (and coercive) for the board to seek taxpayer buy-in for an “operating-expense savings plan” knowing full well that they are going to turn right around and ask for a tax hike to fund new capital investments necessitated by that plan. It's time to reframe the debate.


toosense 2 years, 2 months ago

Wake up Lawrence! Reducing capacity now in the name of efficiencies WILL result in the need for brand new schools sooner than necessary. YES we can get leaner, but we'll also be meaner!


aryastark1984 2 years, 2 months ago

And, I thought we were just picking on the low SES, at risk kids so that Langston Hughes could get all day kindergarten. These projections now show that they disrupt the workings of almost every school in the district!

Good news: Your neighborhood school will remain open. Bad news: Your kid doesn't go there anymore. Oh and Your welcome Langston Hughes.


PFC 2 years, 2 months ago

The majority of elementary schools affected, educational programming disrupted, hundreds of kids dislocated from their current schools, and a bunch of teachers moved around. All so the taxpayers can spend on new buildings filled with poor kids. So, finally some plans for everyone to rally around; a bond that will go down in flames


Nat_Nar_ 2 years, 2 months ago

Just to let everyone know all proposals are available at the district web site under consolidation working group. The maps viewed last night were only parts of some proposals not the whole thing and not even finished on the bottom it said "Work in Progress".

If you really want to see the maps as the group gets them come to a consolidated working group meeting.

Any questions as to why certain ideas are coming out of the group could be answered by reading the proposals, I believe.


rtwngr 2 years, 2 months ago

With the existing school buildings available, I don't see any need to build. How long would it be before the new building was geographically or demographically obsolete? No, we don't need new taxes and we don't need new buildings.

Once again, I must agree with Merrill, (that tasted awful coming out of my mouth) the money would be better spent on salaries than buildings.


Godot 2 years, 2 months ago

Option 1 - build a new school at 15th & Haskell?

How long ago was it the district gifted the existing school building at 15th & Haskell to the Boys & Girls Club?


Richard Heckler 2 years, 2 months ago

Don't forget USD has more than $20 million USD 497 tax dollars on the table for the ill conceived sports project. That $20 million couldn’t have been spent at a worst time. Always let the voters decide how reckless or not we wish to be.

Knowing how to nurture tax dollars is an art.

Voters and taxpayers are the primary stakeholders no matter what. That's right without we taxpayers there could be no tax dollar spending. Some USD 497 taxpayers do not condone the reckless decisions and spending of the past.

What makes we voting taxpayers the primary stakeholders in any new building/construction or rehab project? Each one of us spend thousands upon thousands upon thousands of dollars in this community without which USD 497 would be nothing. Yet we are cast aside under the facade that none of this is any of our business.


Richard Heckler 2 years, 2 months ago

Before spending or asking for additional tax dollars to build or repair buildings USD 497 best wait until they know what exactly is transpiring in Topeka. Our buildings can be rehabilitated over a 3-4 year period on current property tax dollars which is a respectful approach.

USD 497 taxpayers need to think of nurturing our teachers which has not been adequately addressed in some years. Some kind of a pay increase method may need to be a matter for consideration should the legislature open those doors.

Always let the voters decide how reckless or not we wish to be.

We don't need two tax increases. If any tax increase presents itself it should be applied to salaries. This demonstrates the exercise of good judgment and/or common sense… can we say prudent?


Richard Heckler 2 years, 2 months ago

To maintain a superb system parents must remain active which means we cannot allow school boards to dictate what will be. As taxpayers we are also the most important stakeholders who elect school boards to carry out our wishes not the other way around.

Our founding fathers wanted to insure Democracy for our country. Benjamin Franklin created the public library, the purpose being no citizen will be secluded from public knowledge. He also founded the public school, the purpose being no citizen will be without a basic education.

Voters and taxpayers are the primary stakeholders no matter what. Always let the voters decide how reckless or not we wish to be.


Kookamooka 2 years, 2 months ago

Every single teacher in the district should be ESL trained as they are in other districts. Knowing how to adapt curriculum and differentiate for those students, benefits ALL students. IF you think broadly, ALL students are learners of the English language. There are more creative ways to deal with the problem than keeping them in one location (which is actually an old fashioned idea) ESL students enrich whatever school they attend by being bilingual and having unique cultural connections. I attended the McRel workshop on teaching teachers how to address the needs of ESL students and if some professional development money from USD 497 went to sending one teacher from each school-they could teach the other teachers. It's just solid educational theory.


Benjamin Roberts 2 years, 2 months ago

Can we get information on HOW previous "consolidations" (closing Wakarusa) has affected the children that had to change schools? Scholastically? Emotionally? Behavior? Outcomes?

Is ANYONE at the District following the students that moved from Broken Arrow to Schwegler, from Wakarusa to Broken Arrow and Sunflower? It would be nice if District Administration would at least pretend to care.


GardenMomma 2 years, 2 months ago

Can we get information on HOW the boundries would change with each scenario, please? Thanks.


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