Lawrence school board to revisit proposed door-to-door fundraising ban

Lawrence USD 497 school board

The Lawrence school board agreed Monday to reconsider a proposal to prohibit door-to-door fundraising by elementary and middle school students.

The ban was part of a draft district fundraising policy presented for the board’s consideration with the recommendation it be considered for adoption at the board’s Jan. 8 meeting. After board discussion, it was agreed the policy would be revised and probably would not come back before the board until February.

The draft policy was developed by the Board Policy Committee, which includes board president Shannon Kimball and board member Vanessa Sanburn. It was meant to codify practices that were occurring in the district so there would be consistency throughout the district, Sanburn said. The proposed policy didn’t make a lot of changes, but did require principals or the district superintendent to preapprove all fundraising efforts in writing and that those efforts be supervised by faculty members. It also proposed guidelines for internet crowdsourcing, she said.

Kimball acknowledged parents and staff had expressed concerns about the draft policy to her and other board members. The subject of the most comments at the meeting would have prohibited elementary and middle school students from engaging in door-to-door fundraising and require suitable safeguards to be in place before high school door-to-door fundraising efforts would be approved.

It was not good practice for younger students to go door-to-door without adult supervision, especially if they were carrying money, Kimball said.

The policy would end such traditional fundraising efforts as the Liberty Memorial Central Middle School Fun Run, board members Jessica Beeson and Jill Fincher said, suggesting the ban not be applied to middle school students.

“I understand the safety concerns, but kids that age are walking to school,” she said.

Parent Nilou Vakil, a Hillcrest Elementary School PTO member, said door-to-door fundraising offered a way to build community. Not only did students meet residents through the activity, but those in the community who gave formed attachments with schools. She has had residents later ask about the projects they helped fund, she said.

“It’s going to create a hindrance for schools like us,” she said.

With the concerns, Kimball agreed the draft policy should be revisited before being presented to the board for approval.

The draft policy also forbids making participating in fundraising a condition of being a member of a team, club or other student organization, or restricting benefits, such as playing time, because a student didn’t raise money. Kimball and Sanburn said those guidelines needed to stay in place.

Dave Cunningham, district executive director of human resources and chief legal counsel, and Kathy Johnson, executive director of finance, said the written approval was proposed because sometimes groups have raised money for items it was later learned a school didn’t need. It would also allow administrators to ensure IRS paperwork was filed correctly and that any internet crowdsourcing was done through approved websites, they said. The goal was to have groups use credible and viable websites that had reasonable charges for services, they said.

In other business:

• The board received an update on design work for Free State High School. Architect Kelly Dreyer, senior associate with Gould-Evans Associates, said the design now differs from the one in the master plan released in February before voters’ approval in May of the $87 million bond referendum. The master plan proposed the Free State project have 18,490 square feet of new construction and 21,522 square feet of renovations. The plan is now to add 13,036 square feet of new construction and renovate 47,319 square feet of existing space, Deyer said. The plan will add eight classrooms to the school, which would accommodate an enrollment of 2,000 students, he said.

• Kimball told the board that staff and parents have voiced concerns about the city of Lawrence’s proposal to build a new police headquarters at 5100 Overland Drive immediately west of the Free State campus. The property would have to be rezoned before the headquarters could be built on the site, she said. She has been in communication with the city about how the district should provide input on the rezoning decision. She said community member comments shared with board members or the district administration would be included in the district’s response.