Lawrence school board to consider approving plan to close Kennedy Elementary School

photo by: Dylan Lysen/Lawrence Journal-World

Kennedy Elementary School, 1605 Davis Road

The fate of Lawrence’s Kennedy Elementary School could soon be decided.

During its meeting on Monday, the Lawrence school board will consider approving the district’s plan to close the east Lawrence school to turn it into an early-childhood education community center. The change would result in the school’s 185 K-5 students moving to three other nearby elementary schools — Cordley, New York and Prairie Park — starting next fall.

Background:

District expects Kennedy Elementary School change to save more than $700K; parents raise concerns about moving students

As the Journal-World previously reported, the district administration believes the closure will save about $720,000 in the district’s budget through the elimination of positions at the school. Prior to the regular meeting, the board will meet for a work session to hear a report about those possible savings from Kathy Johnson, the district’s finance director.

The district is looking for budget savings because it is facing a $1.2 million shortfall. The shortfall is directly related to a steep enrollment drop last fall because of the coronavirus pandemic.

However, parents and staff have raised concerns about the proposed change, including the timing of the decision, how it would affect students and whether Kennedy’s building was the correct location for a communitywide early-childhood center, among other issues.

But the main driver of the plan was the district’s finances, Superintendent Anthony Lewis said recently. During a meeting with parents and staff, Lewis said he originally wanted to spend a year to “plan and engage” on the topic and consider the proposal the following year. But the issue of a $1.2 million shortfall would still exist in the short term, he said.

“I was asked this one question, ‘Dr. Lewis, where would we get the money from?’ and I didn’t have an answer to that,” Lewis said. “We have to do it now,” he added.

The school board will meet at 5 p.m. Monday through an online conference call. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the district encourages the public to watch the meeting on Midco channel 26 or online at youtube.com/USD497.

Those who want to speak during public comments at the meeting can still do so. The district asks for comments to be sent by email to PatronCommentary@usd497.org. Comments can also be emailed to board members ahead of the meeting. Their contact information is available on the district’s website at usd497.org/Board.


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