Lawrence school district committee finalizes recommended boundary shifts for potential school closures

photo by: Rochelle Valverde

The Boundary Advisory Committee discusses its recommendation for boundary changes related to the potential closures of Broken Arrow and Pinckney elementaries at its meeting March 22, 2023.

The committee working to redraw boundaries in the Lawrence school district related to the potential closures of Broken Arrow and Pinckney elementaries has finalized its recommendation for district leaders except for some minor adjustments.

During a Boundary Advisory Committee meeting on Wednesday evening, consultants working with the district went over a proposal for boundary changes that was revised based on input from the committee at its last meeting. The committee voted unanimously in support of the proposal after directing consultants with RSP & Associates to make a change to one area to improve the efficiency of rural bus routes south of town.

The committee considered various factors, including the effect the boundary changes would have on building capacity, sections per building, class sizes and the racial and socioeconomic makeup of schools. There was some discussion Wednesday about the distribution of students who qualify for free and reduced-price meals and how additional funding the district receives for those students would be distributed, but ultimately the committee did not make additional changes in that regard. Lawrence school board and committee member GR Gordon-Ross said he thought it was a good proposal and any unintended consequences would be addressed if they arose.

“I don’t think we can find every one of those before we make a decision,” Gordon-Ross said. “I think for me personally, I think this is a good proposal. I think it hits on the right high notes that we set forth to do.”

photo by: Rochelle Valverde

A draft table shows a proposal for how students will be shifted among the district’s 11 remaining schools should Broken Arrow and Pinckney elementaries close. The distribution of Broken Arrow students among Langston Hughes and Sunflower will change in the final recommendation based on committee input.

Under the proposal, Broken Arrow’s approximately 220 students would be divided among Cordley, Langston Hughes, Prairie Park, Schwegler and Sunflower, and Pinckney’s approximately 170 students among Deerfield, Hillcrest and Woodlawn. The vast majority of the Broken Arrow students, 165 or about 74%, would go to either Cordley or Schwegler. The vast majority of the Pinckney students, 123 or about 73%, would go to Deerfield.

The recommended boundary changes would also result in students from three additional schools, namely Cordley, Deerfield and Hillcrest, being moved to other schools in order to balance building capacity and class sizes among the 11 schools that would remain open. Under the proposal, 13 students currently attending Cordley would be moved to Hillcrest; 50 students currently attending Deerfield would be moved to either Sunset Hill or Woodlawn; and 30 students attending Hillcrest would be moved to Quail Run.

About 30 students would be moved to Woodlawn as part of the committee’s goal to better utilize that school building; almost all of them would be coming from the current Deerfield boundary area. Only one additional student, from the current Pinckney area, would attend Woodlawn. Robert Schwarz, of RSP & Associates, said those decisions were made to meet the committee’s goal of better utilizing Woodlawn while also addressing the committee’s concerns about not moving kids to Woodlawn who would end up potentially walking across the Kansas River bridge to get to school. Schwarz said under the proposal, the new Woodlawn students would be far enough away to qualify for busing.

In totality, the various boundary shifts will affect 485 students among the five schools that will see boundary changes. The numbers of students affected by the proposed changes are based on current enrollment. Larry Englebrick, the district’s facilities and operations leader, noted that enrollment numbers regularly shift as families move in and out of boundary areas.

The change to the draft proposal requested by the committee Wednesday dealt with approximately 30 rural students who live south of town and currently attend Broken Arrow but would attend either Langston Hughes or Sunflower under the proposal. A concern was expressed that the recommended boundaries would result in long routes for those rural students. Following direction from the committee, Schwarz said those boundaries would be adjusted to minimize the need for buses and the time students spend on the bus.

The committee was shown a draft map of the boundary change proposal during the meeting, but that map was not distributed. Schwarz said RSP would update that draft map to reflect the boundary changes related to the rural bus routes before it is provided to families during school closure hearings for Broken Arrow and Pinckney elementaries on Saturday. Ginna Wallace, a planner with RSP, said that a written description of how current boundary lines will shift will be posted on the committee’s website on Thursday.

The Lawrence school board will consider the potential school closures as well as the committee’s boundary recommendation at its meeting March 27.


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