Lawrence school board to consider hiring consultant to help plan future use of school buildings

photo by: Dylan Lysen/Lawrence Journal-World

Lawrence Public Schools district offices pictured in April 2021.

With potential school closures looming, Lawrence school board leaders will soon consider hiring an outside consultant to use enrollment projections and other data to help plan how the district uses its school buildings.

As part of its meeting Monday, the Lawrence school board will consider approving a $120,000 proposal from RSP & Associates to complete an enrollment analysis and guide a facility master plan process for the district, according to a district memo to the board. The enrollment analysis will include five-year enrollment projections, a development and housing analysis and a demographic profile, all of which will inform the facility master plan for the district’s buildings.

The district proposed closing multiple schools for the 2022-2023 school year to help address a multimillion-dollar budget shortfall driven largely by enrollment declines and the board’s desire to set aside funding for staff raises. The board took school closures off the table for the upcoming school year due in part to the short time frame for discussion; however, both district administrators and board members have said they expect school closures to be up for debate again for the 2023-2024 school year. With the goal of improving the budget process, particularly when it comes to discussion of closures, cuts and staff raises, the board began discussions months earlier than usual.

Discussion for the 2023-2024 budget began at a study session July 25, where board members began identifying their budget priorities for the 2023-2024 school year. At that meeting, Superintendent Anthony Lewis told board members that the district was looking at hiring RSP, which the district has hired in the past to create enrollment projections, to complete a broader analysis that will help guide building plans and budget decisions. Lewis said RSP would analyze enrollment shifts, demographic shifts and economic trends and use that information to help plan the district’s use of its school buildings and other budget decisions.

“So that we can have a pretty good indicator or picture of where we will be next year or the year after that, so we can forecast, ‘OK, we need X amount of dollars to address our priorities,'” Lewis said. “And then as an administrative team we can come with some recommendations.”

Lewis said the proposal from RSP includes the creation of several subcommittees — on finance, curriculum and facilities — that will consist of various district stakeholders, as well as the facilitation of community engagement.

The proposal calls for RSP to create the facility master plan in conjunction with an architecture firm and an engineering firm, according to the district memo. The memo states the facility plan will align use of the district’s buildings with educational needs and the district’s budget.

“The Facility Master Plan is designed to plan for facilities that align the current and future educational need of the district’s students with Lawrence Public Schools’ Strategic Plan and available resources, and will be developed via engagement with planners, the Lawrence community and district committees and subcommittees,” the memo states.

If approved, the $120,000 cost of the contract with RSP & Associates would come from the district’s general fund.

In other business:

•District staff will present the previously discussed budget for the upcoming 2022-2023 school year. The board will consider approving the maximum expenditures in the budget and setting a budget hearing for 6 p.m. on Sept. 12 at district offices, 110 McDonald Drive.

•Receive a report on an increase in the number of police officers at Lawrence secondary schools, known as school resource officers (SROs). In 2001, Lawrence received a grant to place six SROs in Lawrence public schools, and each of the district’s four middle schools and two high schools had one SRO, according to a district memo. In 2005, grant funding for the positions ended, but the Lawrence Police Department and the City of Lawrence continued to provide SROs to the Lawrence district at no charge. In 2012, due to budget cuts and reorganization, LPD cut two of the SRO positions. The remaining four SROs were assigned as pairs at each high school, with additional support provided as needed to the middle and elementary schools. The memo states that the Lawrence Police Department has recently offered to add two SROs back to the district at no cost, which would allow the district to return to having an SRO assigned to each middle and high school.

The Lawrence school board will convene at 6 p.m. Monday at district offices, 110 McDonald Drive.


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