Lawrence school board members are taking a step in the right direction by starting to ask specific questions related to possible elementary school consolidation.
At Monday’s meeting, they focused on the district’s English as a Second Language program, which currently has cluster sites at two elementary schools, Cordley and Hillcrest. Both of those schools were among the six elementary schools that a district working group was asked to consolidate to three or four. The working group failed to produce a solid recommendation for consolidation, but the future of ESL programs at Cordley and Hillcrest was an issue the group considered.
Now, board members are continuing that discussion by asking questions about why ESL programs are located where they are. In the process, they apparently are raising issues that district administrators hadn’t really considered. For instance, board member Shannon Kimball asked at what point schools had enough ESL students to justify having their own programs rather than sending their students to a cluster site. Administrators said they didn’t really have an answer to that question because they always had approached it from the other end, looking at when cluster sites got too large and needed to be split.
It’s good that board members are asking questions and inviting district administrators to look at some issues from a different angle. Now is the perfect time to look at how ESL programs are distributed because the Hillcrest ESL program currently enrolls 60 percent of the students at that school and may need to be expanded to another site.
The distribution of ESL programs certainly isn’t the only or, perhaps even the most important, issue related to elementary school consolidation in Lawrence, but it’s part of the puzzle that board members and district administrators must thoroughly understand before they move forward on any consolidation proposals.