First Bell: Early-childhood reception coming up; consolidation talk blows through Windy City and beyond; Parent Connection Series set for Dec. 1

Ongoing donations to the Lawrence school district’s preschool program remain cause for celebration, and an event next month will honor both a community volunteer and a friend of the program.

The Lawrence Schools Foundation will conduct its annual Early Childhood Reception at 9 a.m. Dec. 8 in the library at Kennedy School, 1605 Davis Road.

To be honored during the reception:

• Mary Jones, for her work with Toys for Tots.

• Linda Robinson, a former member of the Lawrence school board, as the 2011 Friend of Early Childhood Education.

Susan Esau, the foundation’s executive director, said that the honors would be bestowed thanks to the generosity of William Dann, a Lawrence resident who last year donated $50,000 to the program — a donation that had brought his total donations to the program to $550,000 since 1998.

The program provides early-childhood education programming at Kennedy for more than 100 at-risk 4-year-olds.


As the Lawrence school district continues to grapple with questions and concerns regarding an anticipated consolidation of elementary schools, I came across some news Tuesday that indicates such discussions here are far from isolated.

In Chicago, there’s talk that perhaps one in five schools overall could be merged, closed or phased out during the next two years.

“School actions include anything from shutting down a school, to consolidating the students and staff at two buildings, to turning over a school to a charter school chain, to replacing all staff at a school and starting from scratch with new curriculum,” according to a story in Medill Reports, at Northwestern University.

Plans already are under way for closing schools in Wichita, a district where the budget isn’t large enough to hire enough employees to open new schools built during the district’s most recent bond issue.

Decisions elsewhere aren’t playing a direct role on the work of the Central and East Lawrence Elementary School Consolidation Working Group, but such information certainly hovers in the background.

The working group is scheduled to recommend a plan for reducing a list of six elementary schools by either two or three through consolidation within two years. Candidates for consolidation are Cordley, Hillcrest, Kennedy, New York, Pinckney and Sunset Hill schools.

The working group’s recommendations are due to the Lawrence school by the end of January.


Parents of students in middle school — that’s sixth, seventh and eighth grades in the Lawrence school district — are invited to attend the latest edition of the district’s Parent Connection Series.

The next session is set for 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Dec. 1 at West Middle School, 2700 Harvard Road.

Topics to be covered:

• Language arts/reading.

• Alcohol and drug prevention.

• Leadership/citizenship.

Organizers say the series offers “informational sessions that support the academic, emotional, and physical development of adolescents.”

Two more sessions remain: Feb. 8 at Southwest Middle School, and April 19 at South Middle School.