Members of the Lawrence school board agreed that they would have to vote on whether or not to consolidate the district’s elementary schools. They just weren’t ready to vote on the issue Monday night and don’t expect to be at the next meeting.
A week after receiving two recommendations from a group that had been tasked with looking at how to best close the district’s smallest elementary schools, board members rattled off questions they wanted to have answered before making any decisions.
At the top of the board’s concerns are the future of the district’s English as a Second Language program, and which schools are well-suited for expansions and which ones aren’t.
“At some point, we are going to have to get to point of are we doing this or not. I don’t think we can beg away from it,” board member Bob Byers said on the decision to close schools.
For six months the board-assigned Central and East Lawrence Elementary School Consolidation Group studied ways 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 recommended to keep school closures as a valid option, but they didn’t want to name which buildings to close.
For Byers, there were three possible outcomes: to consolidate and expand current schools, build nothing and update the current schools, or consolidate and build new schools.
Before making those decisions, some board members said they would like to see more information about the cost of upgrading buildings.
“We need to have a detailed look, not a cursory look,” Randy Masten said.
But others said some kind of decision would have to be made before architects begin to look at the costs of expanding facilities.
“We need to push ourselves to make the decision without all the data,” said Keith Diaz Moore, who is a board member and an architecture professor at Kansas University. “We aren’t going to have all the answers before making those decisions.”
Board President Mark Bradford said once members had feedback from some of the questions posed Monday night, options would be eliminated. But he didn’t see that happening at next week’s meeting.
“(The working group) couldn’t do it with many, many more weeks of discussion and cussing that we had,” Bradford said.