Archive for Monday, March 24, 2014

Lawrence school boundaries could shift in 2015

March 24, 2014

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Contact Journal-World education reporter Elliot Hughes: ehughes@ljworld.com

A task force appointed by the Lawrence school board on Monday began looking at ways to balance student enrollments at several buildings in the coming years to prevent some of them from becoming overcrowded.

Although no decisions were made, panel members said they are focusing their attention primarily on five elementary schools and two middle schools.

Under general concepts discussed Monday night, some neighborhoods currently assigned to Langston Hughes School would be shifted to the Quail Run attendance zone for the 2015-2016 school year. In addition, some parts of both the Quail Run and Deerfield zones would be shifted to Sunset Hill.

The panel also discussed changing two middle school attendance zones so Liberty Memorial Central Middle School would absorb the entire Pinckney School attendance area. Currently, the Pinckney area is divided between LMCMS and West Middle School.

"Some schools are overcrowded, and we have to address it," said school board president Rick Ingram, who called for the formation of the task force last fall. "We just want to address it in the least disruptive way that we can."

District officials were caught off guard when the current school year began in August and they saw that kindergarten enrollment at Deerfield had grown by 100 students. Officials had been expecting an increase of only 60 students.

Overall, enrollment in the district grew nearly 2 percent this year, prompting the school board to immediately add more construction projects to the list of expansions and renovations being funded with the recently-passed $92.5 million bond issue.

Board members have said they want to hold each elementary school to no more than about 400 pupils each so they can remain "neighborhood" schools. But with the district's current growth rate, doing that could mean eventually having to build at least one new grade school, and possibly a new middle school.

In the meantime, though, Ingram is urging the board to consider minor adjustments to each school's attendance zone to make the maximum use out of the space already available.

Ingram said he hopes the panel will have a proposal to submit to the board before the end of this school year. And he said any proposal would include a "grandfather clause" that would allow students already enrolled at a building to continue going there if their families choose to, even if the boundary shifts would otherwise move them to a different school.

The task force plans to meet again in two weeks, on April 7. At that meeting, members hope to have more detailed data from the district's demographics consultant, RSP Inc., that will show specifically how various boundary changes would affect enrollment at each of the schools.

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