District shares additional details about providing public comment ahead of school closing hearings

photo by: Journal-World

Lawrence Public Schools district offices pictured in April 2021.

The Lawrence school district has provided additional details about how residents may submit public comment regarding the potential closures of Broken Arrow and Pinckney elementaries.

As the Journal-World reported Monday, the public hearing for the potential closure of Broken Arrow will take place from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday, March 25, in the Broken Arrow school gymnasium. The public hearing for the potential closure of Pinckney will take place from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. that same day in the Pinckney school gymnasium.

District spokesperson Julie Boyle said in a follow-up email on Tuesday that individuals interested in participating in the public hearings may sign up in advance at PublicComment@usd497.org or complete a sign-up sheet at the hearings by 10 a.m. at Broken Arrow or by 2 p.m. at Pinckney. She said public comments shared during the hearings may be related to either elementary school recommended for closure. She said that depending upon the number of individuals signed up for public comment, the board president may adjust the three minutes traditionally allotted to each speaker.

The community group Save Our Schools has requested five elements to ensure the community has adequate access to provide public comment as part of the hearing process. They include ensuring that virtual participation and streaming are available; providing free child care; not limiting the hearings to two hours to ensure all voices are heard; allowing for written comments to be read aloud if within the permitted time limit; and providing interpreters upon request. In a statement, Save Our Schools said ensuring the ability to fully participate was vital given the impact of school closures.

“Closing schools is an irreversible decision that has a far-reaching impact across our city,” Save Our Schools said in the statement. “The students, families and community members whose lives are currently centered around these schools deserve the ability to fully participate in the hearing process, understanding that the loss of a school can be traumatic to the community that calls it home. The community expects the district to remove as many barriers as possible and allow ALL voices to be heard.”

Boyle states that the hearings are being held at the schools to improve accessibility to the school communities. Regarding the ability to provide virtual comments, she said the school gyms are not equipped with the technology necessary for a quality video/audio livestream presentation, but that the district will record both hearings and post the recordings to its YouTube channel by Monday. She said that individuals who want to share comments online may do so during public comment during the Monday, March 27, board meeting by signing up in advance at PublicComment@usd497.org or by completing a sign-up sheet at the meeting prior to the start time. Written comments to the school board may be submitted at any time at schoolboard@usd497.org or to the Board Clerk, USD 497, 110 McDonald Drive, Lawrence, KS 66044.

Boyle said the district is pursuing on-site child care for school-age children but has not finalized its availability and will announce the service if finalized.


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