Lawrence school board to receive enrollment projections that will help guide budget planning, potential school closures

photo by: Dylan Lysen/Lawrence Journal-World

Lawrence Public Schools district offices pictured in April 2021.

The Lawrence school board will soon receive enrollment projections that will be used to plan staffing levels, potential school closures and other budget decisions for the district.

As part of its meeting Monday, the school board will receive an enrollment report from the consulting firm RSP & Associates, which the district hired to complete enrollment projections and other analyses, as well as to facilitate a committee that will develop a budget recommendation for the board.

The report was not yet attached to the school board’s agenda as of Friday evening, but RSP provided some enrollment information to the committee, known as the Futures Planning Committee, on Nov. 30. In that report, RSP projected that the overall enrollment in the district will decrease by 318 students, to about 9,570 students, by the 2027-28 school year, or by about 3.3%. Elementary enrollment is forecast to decrease by 24 students over the next five years (-0.5%), middle school enrollment by 128 students (-5.9%), and high school enrollment by 166 students (-5%). As far as anticipated development in Lawrence, the projections identified an additional 1,800 potential housing units in the next decade, but the report predicts that the majority of the increase will happen in the last five years of that time, “which is a limiting factor in immediate enrollment growth.”

Based in part on those projections, district administrators recently proposed a budget reduction package that would close three schools. The proposal would cut an estimated $7.15 million to $9.1 million from the district’s budget through a combination of staff cuts, program reductions and the three school closures. Specifically, the proposal calls for “repurposing” two elementary schools and one middle school, with a projected savings of $300,000 to $400,000 for each elementary school and $325,000 for the middle school. The proposal does not identify specific schools. Staffing and program cuts make up the remainder of the proposed cuts, with $6.17 million to $7.92 million in staff reductions and $58,000 in program reductions.

A district staff memo to the board states that in addition to providing information on enrollment projections, the report will update the board and community on the Futures Planning Committee process. The committee began meeting in September, with RSP facilitating the six meetings that have occurred since then. Another three meetings are scheduled — on Jan. 11, Feb. 2 and Feb. 15 — before the committee is scheduled to provide its recommendation. Two public input sessions are scheduled for Jan. 17 and 18.

In addition to the enrollment projections, RSP was contracted to provide analyses regarding school boundaries, community development, housing and school building utilization.

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

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