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Lawrence school district explains Montessori idea for New York Elementary; budget committee to hold meeting today

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There is no current proposal or recommendation to close New York Elementary School, according to Lawrence Public Schools spokesperson Julie Boyle.

Superintendent Anthony Lewis addressed concerns about the future of the school in an email Wednesday, saying the district is “exploring the possibility of whether offering a free, public Montessori educational program at New York Elementary, the district’s lowest enrolled school, could increase enrollment,” but no decision or recommendation has been made.

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The idea comes in response to the multimillion-dollar budget deficit the district faces due to declining enrollment. The long-term solution to this issue is to try to attract new families to LPS and increase enrollment, Lewis said, but until then, the school board’s budget committees and subcommittees are still seeking answers.

“Staff has shared this idea with New York’s staff and site council and continues to discuss it with staff of KU’s Center for Montessori Research, a national consultant who specializes in opening public Montessori schools, and other Lawrence Montessorians,” Lewis said.

If the district were to try the Montessori approach, Lewis said, it would need to be implemented in phases. As the Montessori program grew, the district would eventually phase out the traditional educational approach by grade levels.

“Another school or schools could be designated by the Boundary Advisory Committee as attendance centers for families living in the New York attendance area who prefer a traditional education,” Lewis said. 

The Lawrence school district’s Budget and Program Evaluation Committee will meet from 4-5:30 p.m. Wednesday at district offices, according to a news release from Boyle.

The meeting will be open to the public but not livestreamed. Nine subcommittees are expected to meet in small groups to discuss budget-cutting proposals.

President Erica Hill has also called a special board meeting to hold a budget work session next week. The meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Monday, Dec. 20, according to the email.

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Meeting materials had not been posted to the district website for either budget meeting as of publication time.

Here’s a look at the subcommittees charged with exploring budget-cutting proposals:

Screenshot/USD 497 Presentation slide provided by the Lawrence school district for its Nov. 29 board meeting
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Emma Bascom (she/her), reporter, can be reached at ebascom (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here.

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