Posts tagged with First Bell

South Middle School students compete to raise funds for new teen center; lots of Lawrence public school happenings for Friday

Loose change is not usually highly sought after by teenagers, but parents of sixth-graders at South Middle School may be noticing the contrary. The students have been competing in a “penny war” to raise money for the Boys & Girls Club Teen Center.

The students have already raised more than $200 so far, and the competition is set to continue the rest of the month, said sixth-grade English teacher Chelsea King. The sixth-graders are divided into two teams, each with a coin jar, King explained. Pennies count as positive points and silver coins and bills count as negative points, and the team with the highest balance at the end wins.

King said that since a lot of the students participate in the Boys & Girls Club afterschool program, that they decided they would like to donate the proceeds of the penny war toward the future teen center.

The club’s current 6,000-foot teen center at 1520 Haskell Ave. only has room for about 70 participants in its afterschool program, and club officials have said that the center has had a waiting list for the past two years. The club has been raising money to build a new (and much larger) center that will enable it to serve five times as many students.

The Boys & Girls Club has the ultimate fundraising goal of $5 million to build the teen center, and as of a few months ago had raised about $1.2 million. In November, a donor honored Don “Red Dog” Gardner as the namesake of the future center. Gardner has led community workouts for youth and adults in Lawrence for more than 30 years.

Colby Wilson, executive director of the center, said that there will be an update on the project’s progress in the next couple months. The goal remains to have the teen center open in late 2017, he said.

In other news and notes for Friday:

  • Many of the elementary schools are holding parties in the afternoon for Valentine’s Day. Most are around 2 p.m., but you can check your student’s school calendar at for exact times (There are some creative names for these parties, by the way, including Friendship Parties and Warm Hearts Parties).
  • Hillcrest Elementary School fifth-graders are taking their Ski trip on Friday.
  • Liberty Memorial Central Middle School is holding a Parents' Group Social from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. The cost to attend is $5 at the door, which also covers pizza.
  • South Middle School is hosting a Valentine’s Dance for students from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. It is also the last day of Spirit Week, and Friday’s theme is Star Wars.
  • Southwest Middle School is also hosting a dance from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m.
  • West Middle School is hosting a dance/activity night from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

New blog site; facility evaluations completed; more pertussis cases reported; fall break

You found us

Congratulations. The fact that you're reading this means you've passed the first test by successfully navigated to the new First Bell blog site.

As I tried to explain on the "old" site, we're migrating to a new blogging "platform" here at the Journal-World. The idea, at least as I'm being told by official sources, is that this will enable us to blog more frequently, providing you with more up-to-the-minute information about what's going on.

It should also give you greater flexibility to browse or search through previous posts for things you might have missed or want to read again.

For those of you who subscribe to the blog by email, bear with us for a bit. We're still working on getting things synced up so we can continue that service. I'll keep you posted on how that develops.

Facility evaluations available online

Meanwhile, you may be glad to know that the Lawrence school district has completed its exhaustive series of public input sessions about the proposed bond issue that will go before voters in April. The last meeting was Monday at Free State High School.

If you missed the meetings but still want to know what ideas are on the table for your neighborhood school, you can view all the facility evaluations online at the district's Bond Issue Planning website.

As of Monday afternoon, the site had evaluation summaries for all 14 elementary schools. A summary of plans and options for the two high schools was expected to be posted soon.

The key information on those documents is in the lower-right corner. That's where they spell out options for how the buildings can be enhanced with proceeds from a bond sale.

The options are spelled out in order of priority:

Priority 1 involves basic things to get each building up to snuff, especially the six "core" elementary schools in east and central Lawrence - the schools previously targeted for closure or consolidation. That includes things like getting rid of portable buildings and replacing them with permanent structures, and giving each school a separate gymnasium and cafeteria.

Priority 2 involves bringing about equity in the buildings - expanding the square footage in classrooms and other facilities to match the newer, more spacious buildings in the district. That includes providing "break-out" space in classrooms, as well as other enhancements to accommodate "21st century learning."

Priority 3 is kind of the wish-list package. It spells out what would be needed to bring each of the buildings up to national standards for new construction. In other words, what you would have to do to make the building match a typical new facility built from scratch.

The Board of Education will work over the next several weeks to narrow down exactly what they want, and what they hope voters in the district will approve. That means in all likelihood, there won't be many Priority 3 items on the list.

They hope to settle on a final plan before Jan. 1. That will include specific drawings for each building, and the cost estimates.

In addition to facility enhancements, the board plans to seek bond funding for technology upgrades throughout the district as well as expansion of career and technical education opportunities.

Because the district is retiring some old bonds this year, finance officials say Lawrence could issue around $90 million in new bonds without requiring a tax increase. Board members have said generally they plan to keep the overall project budget in that neighborhood.

The board plans to put the bond proposal on the April 2 ballot for voter approval.

More pertussis cases reported

Lawrence school officials say there have been two more confirmed cases of pertussis, or whooping cough, in the district.

District spokeswoman Julie Boyle said Monday the district was notified that a second-grade student at Pinckney Elementary and an eighth-grade student at West Middle School have been diagnosed with the disease. The two cases are unrelated.

Both schools have informed their families and shared a fact sheet about the disease. The school nurses have reviewed student immunization records and are working with the Lawrence Douglas County Health Department to follow up as necessary, Boyle said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, pertussis is a highly contagious bacterial disease that causes uncontrollable coughing which often makes it difficult to breath. After fits of many coughs, someone with pertussis often needs to take deep breathes which result in a "whooping" sound. Pertussis most commonly affects infants and young children and can be fatal, especially in babies less than 1 year of age.

Immunization against the disease is one of the vaccinations that children are required to have in order to attend public school. It's included in the vaccine commonly known as Dpat, which stands for diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus.

Despite widespread vaccinations, though outbreaks of the disease are common in the United States.

The Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department has reported more than 80 cases of the disease so far this year, a five-fold increase over 2011.

Fall recess

The Fall Recess is upon us. There is no school in the Lawrence District Wednesday through Friday. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Peter Hancock can be reached at 832-7259, or by email at