For some Lawrence school board members, the future of the district’s English as a Second Language program shouldn’t be tied to talks on consolidating its smallest elementary schools.
On Monday evening, the school board continued discussions on whether to reduce six elementary schools — New York, Cordley, Kennedy, Pinckney, Hillcrest and Sunset Hill — down to three or four in the next two years.
For six months, a working group had been tasked with studying that question and came back with two recommendations. One group recommended that all the schools stay open and the district support a bond issue. The other group believed that consolidation was a valid option but didn’t name which schools should close.
At Monday’s meeting, board members quizzed staff about the future of the ESL program and how the district plans to expand it.
Currently, the district has two cluster sites — Hillcrest and Cordley — where ESL students from other elementary schools are sent. It also has smaller neighborhood sites at Schwegler and Sunflower.
Board member Shannon Kimball wanted to know at what point schools should stop sending students to cluster sites and form their own ESL programs.
“The way you asked it isn’t entirely the way we approached it over time,” Chief Academic Officer Kim Bodensteiner told Kimball. “It has also been when is a cluster site getting too big in terms of space and balance.”
With Hillcrest, the largest ESL site, having 60 percent of its students in the ESL program, district staff said they are looking at ways to expand the program once again.
“Our ESL numbers are going to continue to grow, and so the likelihood of having cluster sites in place in the near to moderate future is going to be there,” Superintendent Rick Doll said, noting it was likely that the district would get another neighborhood site.
Board members also wanted to know whether the actual school buildings influenced where ESL programs were housed.
Beyond having small rooms for meeting with ESL students individually and plenty of curbsides for buses to drop off students, buildings don’t have to change that much.
That had school board President Mark Bradford questioning whether the ESL program should even be part of the discussion of whether to close schools.
“To me that ties more into budget hearing issues than it would the facilities question,” Bradford said.
l In other news, the school board accepted Bodensteiner’s resignation. Bodensteiner, who oversees all the teaching and learning functions of the school system, has accepted a position as executive director of teaching and learning in Bellevue, Neb., public schools.
Bodensteiner has spent 12 years in the district, seven as a principal for Cordley School and five as the chief academic officer.