The Lawrence school board agreed tonight to spend $50,000 to buy a small piece of property that officials say they don't especially need but which they don't want anyone else to buy and develop.
The vacant property at 450 Wakarusa Drive includes about 4.8 acres and sits adjacent to the Free State High School baseball and softball diamonds.
Assistant superintendent Kyle Hayden said the property caught the district's attention when the owner, EBRPH, LLC, applied for and received a zoning change earlier this month that allows commercial development on the site.
“You want to control what's going on with your neighborhood,” Hayden explained to the board.
Hayden said the district has no immediate plans for the property, but didn't want to see a commercial development going up immediately next to the sports facilities.
“It could be just additional green space,” Hayden said.
He said the property had been appraised at slightly more than $100,000, but the owners accepted the district's offer of $50,000. He said the district would pay for it using money in its capital outlay account.
Also tonight, the board gave preliminary approval to the idea of establishing a Boundaries Advisory Committee and began confronting what may be the difficult task of finding people willing and able to serve on it.
The panel's job would be to make recommendations, possibly each year, about adjusting elementary and middle school attendance zones to prevent some buildings from becoming overcrowded.
But that would involve the often touchy subject of shifting particular students from one school to another, separating them from friends and teachers they have come to know and trust.
“This is not going to be a thankful job,” board president Rick Ingram said. He also said the board would need to recruit people who can approach the job without preconceived ideas or agendas about how boundaries should be drawn.
“We want representation from across the city and the district, but we want people who are open-minded as well,” he said.
Ingram asked for some minor amendments to the proposed guidelines before the board votes on them. Superintendent Rick Doll said the amended document would come back for board approval as a consent agenda item in two weeks.