Lawrence school board to receive report on repurposing middle school, possibly with STEAM-based curriculum

photo by: Chris Conde

Liberty Memorial Central Middle School is pictured in September 2018.

The Lawrence school board on Tuesday is slated to hear a report on the possible reconfiguration of Liberty Memorial Central Middle School into more of a magnet school model — possibly one based on a STEAM curriculum, which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics.

The board voted in February to repurpose the school beginning in the 2024-2025 school year with a to-be determined curricular focus. The decision came amid declining enrollment in the district and decisions to close two elementary schools, Pinckney and Broken Arrow. The board approved using the 2023-2024 school year to engage the community in a repurposing of Liberty Memorial Central Middle School’s educational program.

A committee that has met 11 times since April will present its findings Tuesday and outline recommended curriculum changes. The committee will also discuss boundary shifts potentially affecting the school at 1400 Massachusetts St.

The committee, composed of more than a dozen middle school staff members, conducted a survey of students, staff and other district stakeholders representing grades four through seven. The survey’s findings, according to a report in the agenda packet, indicate that those stakeholders favor a STEAM-based curriculum.

The committee analyzed data on students’ course choices and career interests as identified in the district’s career planning platform and spent months reviewing data on student enrollment, assessment scores and behavior.

The switch to a magnet school format would coincide with a new state law, starting in June 2024, that will allow Kansas students to go to any public school in the state, space permitting.

The committee next plans to host focus groups with students and community members, to visit schools that have a STEAM focus and to discuss professional development needs. The committee is expected to return to the board in December with a final recommendation.

In other business, the board will:

• Consider approving, in its consent agenda, the allocation of up to $15,000 for a project that would install a shade structure at the playground at Hillcrest Elementary School.

• Hear a presentation on the district’s Capital Improvement Plan. The report will provide a summary of CIP funding allocations through the 2026-27 school year.

• Review and consider approving a final draft of the district’s 2024 legislative priorities. Those priorities include special education funding, an increase in base state-aid per pupil, a rejection of all proposals that would divert public tax dollars to private education, and a repeal of SB 180, which is a new state law that, among other things, bars transgender people from using restrooms, locker rooms and other public facilities that align with their gender identity.

The meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. at the district office, 110 McDonald Drive. The meeting is taking place on Tuesday instead of Monday because of the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur.


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