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Lawrence and Douglas County

Lawrence and Douglas county

Lawrence school board to discuss boundaries committee, real estate

October 13, 2013

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The Lawrence school board is expected to vote Monday to set up a standing advisory committee that will make recommendations about which neighborhoods should feed into the various elementary and middle schools in the district.

Board president Rick Ingram has been pushing for such a committee in light of new enrollment numbers this year that showed the student population growing faster than expected. Much of that, but not all, was concentrated in the western side of the district.

In response, the board agreed last month to expand the construction projects that were already planned as part of the $92.5 million bond issue passed in April.

In addition to the 11 new elementary classrooms that were included in the bond-funded projects, the board agreed to add 12 more at various schools, plus "shell" space that could be converted into yet another five classrooms in the future at Sunset Hill School.

But district officials acknowledged that if the growth trends continue, adding space to existing buildings cannot be the only strategy for accommodating growth. Patrons in the district have made it clear, officials said, that they prefer smaller "neighborhood" schools instead of larger "super-schools."

At some point, Superintendent Rick Doll has said, the district may need to add another grade school, and possibly a middle school, if the growth trends continue. In the meantime, though, the district may need to look at adjusting attendance zone boundaries on a constant basis in order to make optimum use of each building.

The proposal that the board will consider Monday calls for setting up a Boundary Advisory Committee that would include two board members, two district administrators, and other representatives from the Lawrence Education Association, the city planning office, First Student bus company, parents and community members.

The committee's role would be to monitor enrollment trends and population shifts, and to make recommendations to the school board about possible changes in attendance zone boundaries.

The school board meets at 7 p.m. Monday at the administration building, 110 McDonald Drive.

Also Monday, the board will be asked to spend $50,000 to buy a small parcel of land at 450 Wakarusa Drive. The land is adjacent to the Free State High School softball and baseball diamonds. Administration officials say purchasing the land would give the district the ability to control development of the property.

In other business, the board will:

• Hear a report from the Facility Planning and Progress Committee, including an update on the plans for upcoming bond-funded construction projects.

• Ratify an amendment to this year's master contract with the local teachers union, moving the deadline for completing evaluations of tenured teachers to Feb. 15, instead of Nov. 1.

• Consider several changes to the district's policy manual that are recommended to comply with newly enacted state laws and regulations.

• And designate the week of Veterans Day, which is Nov. 11, as "Celebrate Freedom Week" in the district, pursuant to a new state law requiring districts to set aside a week and focus instruction in grades K-8 on the founding documents of the United States and the struggles leading up to the nation's founding.

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