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Organizers promise to keep fighting for gymnastics program in Lawrence public schools

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Supporters of Firelions gymnastics at the Lawrence school district’s two high schools have ramped up efforts to keep the program afloat with the launch of an online petition. They’re also vowing to make “a large presence” at the school board meeting Monday, Jan. 10.

The newly launched Change.org petition by parent Jon Cross asks the community to support the long-running sports program. Since December, students, coaches and families have lobbied — and protested — for the district to maintain it. As of Friday afternoon, the petition had received more than 100 signatures.

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Cross wrote in an email asking the community to sign the online petition that supporters would not let the issue go. “The board still has not committed to putting the vote on the agenda. We believe they are stalling to let things die down. But, we are not going to let it die.”

Facing deep, ongoing budget cuts, the district is considering a long list of proposals to help balance the budget. The school board’s meeting Monday does not list any recommended action on those proposals as of publication time, but it could vote on those at future meetings. 

Hillary Jones, mother of a Lawrence High School gymnast, said a group of families had met Thursday night and would rally with coaches so that the issue wasn’t lost amid the district’s budget challenges.

“We definitely don’t want this to be forgotten. We’re not gonna go down without a fight,” she said, adding the group had also received help from a T-shirt business that has printed Firelions shirts.

A message for district spokesperson Julie Boyle to ask about the status of the gymnastics proposal was not returned as of publication time.

Lawrence high schools have won the state title seven times since 1974, including Free State High’s championship in 2020 under head coach Kat Farrow.

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Tricia Masenthin (she/her), equity reporter, can be reached at tmasenthin (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

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