Lawrence school district presents 3 possible budget-cut packages; two would close schools, other would cut 117 staff

photo by: Rochelle Valverde

Superintendent Anthony Lewis addresses members of several school district boards and committees that met at district offices Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2022, to review three budget reduction options to address the district's budget shortfall.

The Lawrence school district has created three potential budget reduction packages aimed at addressing the district’s multimillion-dollar budget shortfall, one of which, based on public input, does not include any school closures.

The three options will be presented to the Lawrence school board for discussion on Monday, along with the results of an equity analysis of each option. The three options — one based on feedback from the board’s Budget and Program Evaluation Committee — are not final options, as the board could pick one of the options as presented, modify one of the options, or come up with its own budget reduction package.

Several board and district advisory committees reviewed the three options as part of a meeting at the school district offices on Wednesday and used an “equity impact analysis tool” to provide equity-focused input on each option. Superintendent Anthony Lewis told those participating in the process that he didn’t like any of the options, but that there were no easy answers to the district’s budget shortfall.

“But I do believe that together we can come up with a solution that’s going to benefit this district for years to come,” Lewis said. “And I think I’ve said it before: We acknowledge that there will be some loss. We don’t know what that loss is.”

Option one includes five school closures, program reductions and staff reductions. The second option contains two school closures and more program and staff reductions than option one, while the third option includes no school closures but the highest number of program and staff reductions. Potential program reductions included in the options include the gymnastics program, middle school sports, band and orchestra, and AVID, an equity-focused college-readiness program, among others.

District spokesperson Julie Boyle said option one was based on two exercises completed by the Budget and Program Evaluation Committee, where committee members were asked on two occasions to select from the list of potential budget reductions to come up with a total of $7 million in cuts. Boyle said option three, the option with no school closures, was created based on public input against school closings and included all the budget reduction proposals apart from those that close school buildings. She said option two is a midpoint between options one and three.

The school district’s summary of the three options and the savings associated with them is as follows:

Option 1

• Five school closures: Broken Arrow Elementary, New York Elementary, Woodlawn Elementary, Pinckney Elementary, and Liberty Memorial Central Middle School.

• Reduction of 24 programs

• Elimination of an estimated 76 full-time positions

• $7.8 million in estimated savings over two years

Option 2:

• Two school closures: Broken Arrow Elementary and Liberty Memorial Central Middle School.

• Reduction of 32 programs

• Elimination of an estimated 99 full-time positions

• $6.8 million in estimated savings in one year

Option 3

• Zero school closures

• Reduction of 34 programs

• Elimination of an estimated 117 full-time positions

• $6.6 million in estimated savings in one year

The Budget and Program Evaluation Committee also identified pros and cons for components of all the options, which were included with the packets that were provided to the advisory boards and district committees that reviewed the three options Wednesday for equity considerations. The boards and committees were also given information about the racial demographics of students and the percentage of students who qualify for free and reduced-price lunch at various schools.

The committees and boards that completed the equity analysis on Wednesday included: the Budget and Program Evaluation Committee, Equity Advisory Council, Parents of Color Advisory Team, Native American Student Services Parent Committee, Superintendent Advisory Council, District Site Council, District Student Equity Council, and Lawrence Special Education Advisory Committee. The BPEC has nine subcommittees that have been considering the budget reductions: elementary staffing; middle school staffing; high school staffing; administration; curriculum and instruction; special education; facilities and operations; English to Speakers of Other Languages; and athletics and activities.

Meeting attendees were broken into several groups and assigned one of the budget reduction packages to analyze using the equity impact analysis tool. The tool uses four equity concepts for its analysis — access, representation, meaningful participation and high outcomes — each with several key considerations.

Details about the three budget reduction packages, the pros and cons provided by the BPEC and the results of the equity impact analysis will be provided to the Lawrence school board at its meeting Monday for initial discussion. The school district is also collecting feedback from students, staff and community members as part of the equity analysis, asking what the most critical things are that the board should consider before making a final decision. Input can be provided at using the code 490-524-790, and public comment will also be accepted at the meeting.

The school board will decide whether it wants to keep school closures on the table at its meeting on Feb. 21. At that meeting, the board will have to decide whether it wants to issue the required notice for the public hearing or hearings to discuss the possible closures. If the board decides to consider closures, those hearings would take place toward the end of March. Lewis said if the board were to vote to close any schools, that vote would not take place until mid-April.

The school district has said it is facing a budget shortfall of an estimated $3.2 million to $3.85 million, but those estimates have increased to as much as $7 million if the board is to move forward with other priorities, such as increasing staff compensation.


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