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Archive for Monday, April 8, 2013

School board OK’s $4.1 million in projects; reorganizes administration

April 8, 2013

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The Lawrence school board voted Monday to authorize $4.1 million in maintenance and renovation projects that are outside the scope of the recently-passed $92.5 million bond issue.

The projects include a number of routine maintenance items such as roof replacements and heating and air conditioning upgrades, as well as athletic equipment and facilities, most of which will be funded out of the district's annual capital outlay fund.

The largest project on the list calls for replacing a boiler and other heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems at Liberty Memorial Central Middle School.

Assistant superintendent Kyle Hayden explained that was because the board made a conscious decision not to fund those kinds of projects with bond proceeds.

But the project that generated the most discussion calls for spending $290,000 to build one new tennis court and rebuild five existing courts at Free State High School.

Hayden said the existing courts were built about 15 years ago and were poorly engineered from the beginning. He said the courts do not drain water properly which causes the surfaces to deteriorate and makes them unusable during much of the regular tennis season.

That project does not call for installing lights on the tennis courts. District officials said they had been asked by the Lawrence Tennis Association and others in the community to build lighted tennis courts, but that lights are not needed for high school competition.

The project list also calls for $1.5 million in technology purchases, including $750,000 for laptops, tablets and other devices, and another $750,000 for audio-visual interactive equipment.

Those types of items are not on the list of bond-funded projects because they tend to last only about three to five years. The technology portion of the bonds will go for routers, switches and other "infrastructure" items that will expand the district's wireless and provide greater bandwidth.

Those purchases are part of the district's longer-term goal of shifting to what education experts call a "blended classroom" model of learning, which uses both online resources as well as traditional teacher-led instruction.

To make way for that, the board also approved a reorganization plan for the district's administration that calls for moving several curriculum specialist positions out of the central office and into school buildings where they will work as "teachers on special assignment."

Assistant superintendent Adam Holden said their role will be to help classroom teachers build the online "course shells" that contain the reading material, exercises, homework assignments and tests that go along with each class.

Holden said the plan also calls for adding more "learning coach" positions — veteran teachers who will help other teachers make the transition to the blended classroom model.

Holden said the reorganization plan will have an added net cost, although he couldn't provide an estimate at Monday's meeting.

Superintendent Rick Doll, however, said much of the cost will be funded by spending down cash balances in funds for at-risk and special education.

Comments

Thomas Christie 1 year, 8 months ago

Don't have much faith in this board or administration.

kuguardgrl13 1 year, 8 months ago

I'm ok with tennis courts. Those can be used for not only the school teams, but also gym classes and community use. It's also supporting one of many sports that is often overlooked in favor of football. But of course one might consider that Rock Chalk Park is supposed to have lighted tennis courts. But Title IX and the state high school league or the conference may require new courts for facility fairness and the ability to host matches. Much like KU building a new track, FSHS could benefit from new courts by being able to host events and not face consequences for sub-par facilities.

Peter Hancock 1 year, 8 months ago

They actually talked about squeegies. Turns out, that doesn't work in this case. Sounds like water percolates up from beneath the courts. They say they've been doing it, and as soon as they get done, there's more water on the courts. Staff says the only solution is to completely rebuild them.

patkindle 1 year, 8 months ago

hey , it is just money and it is all about tthe kids just open up those check books so the others can enjoy your money

been_there 1 year, 8 months ago

I don't see any mention of where the one new tennis court will be built. Added to the ones at Free State maybe?

buffalo63 1 year, 8 months ago

Added cost for reorganization "by spending down cash balances in funds for at-risk and special education", would be ok if the "curriculum specialists" are actually working with this population of students. How many is "several"?

Deb Engstrom 1 year, 8 months ago

Hopefully they're not working with "this population of students" exclusively. All students should benefit from the work the curriculum specialists are doing.

buffalo63 1 year, 8 months ago

I would hope also. My point is money earmarked one way (at-risk and special ed), used another way. Administrators have a habit of slotting money, then stating there is no money for teacher's salaries, benefits, etc.

kinder_world 1 year, 8 months ago

Blended classrooms. HA! More facebook time.

kuguardgrl13 1 year, 8 months ago

I'm sure they will try their best to block Facebook, but the kids are always one step ahead. They may decide to use Facebook instead of trying to block it out. One of the civics teachers at my high school used Twitter as a classroom tool. And honestly if a kid is on Facebook and not paying attention, his grade will reflect that.

Richard Heckler 1 year, 8 months ago

The icing on the cake regarding Blended Classrooms is that students can learn at their own pace so to speak. Meaning students who are self motivated and quick learners can move ahead on their own while freeing up the instructor to work with those that need assistance. Money well spent I 'd say.

Not a bad concept and it is about time USD 497 moved forward with new concepts such as this.

buffalo63 1 year, 8 months ago

Maybe new for middle and senior high schools, but I was using this when teaching elementary in the 1970's. Education tends to go in cycles. Each "generation" thinks they have the next best "new" idea.

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