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Lawrence Public Schools considering closing several schools in proposed scenarios

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Article last updated at 5:38 p.m. Thursday:

Multiple school closings were proposed to the Lawrence school district’s Boundary Advisory Committee Wednesday in an attempt to lessen an impending budget crisis.

Executive Director of Data and Technology Zach Conrad presented four scenarios, each of which involves closing or repurposing at least two schools at the elementary and middle school levels. 

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So far, these scenarios are still just ideas for the school board to consider – the school board will ultimately make the decisions moving forward. 

Kathy Johnson, executive director of finance for the district, said the school board should publish proposals and host public hearings by the Feb. 14 board meeting, and make decisions on closures in late March or early April. Changes would go into effect in the fall.

Scenario 1: Closing Broken Arrow, New York, Pinckney, Woodlawn, and Liberty Memorial Central Middle School

  • This scenario has the most movement between schools and involves the most school closures.
  • In this scenario, Broken Arrow Elementary would close as an elementary school and expand into Billy Mills Middle School in order to hold students from LMCMS.
  • LMCMS would then be closed as a middle school and be repurposed as an elementary school. 
  • Some students would also shift into and out of West and Southwest middle schools with proposed boundary changes.

Movement among the schools would be as follows: 

  • 30 students from New York would be moved to Cordley. 
  • All Broken Arrow students → Schwegler. 
  • 41 Prairie Park students → Hillcrest. 
  • 25 Hillcrest students → Sunset Hill.
  • 99 Sunflower students → Quail Run. 
  • 34 Quail Run students → Deerfield. 
  • 147 Schwegler students → Sunflower. 
  • LMCMS would then absorb the remainder of students from Pinckney, Woodlawn, and New York (519 total).

Scenario 2: Moving students at the elementary level and moving students from LMCMS

  • This scenario involves closing Broken Arrow to accommodate students from LMCMS, like in scenario 1. 
  • Conrad made it clear that scenario 2 is tied to one of scenarios 3 and 4. In other words, the board would have to choose scenarios 2 and 3 or scenarios 2 and 4.

Scenario 3: Closing Broken Arrow and Woodlawn elementaries

  • To accommodate the Broken Arrow students, this scenario also involves movement between Sunflower, Quail Run, and Schwegler. Students from Broken Arrow would go to Schwegler. Some students from Schwegler would go to Sunflower. Some students from Sunflower would go to Quail Run.
  • To accommodate Woodlawn, students would be moved from Prairie Park to Hillcrest. Some Hillcrest students would move into Sunset Hill. Then, the remainder of Woodlawn students would be divided into New York and Pinckney. 
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Scenario 4: Closing Broken Arrow and New York elementaries

  • Broken Arrow students would shift to Schwegler, and New York students would shift to Cordley, Prairie Park, and Pinckney.
  • Conrad didn’t go into as much detail about the specific movements between adjacent schools for this scenario, but noted that space in Schwegler, Cordley, Prairie Park, and Pinckney would need to be created through more redistribution like in the previous scenarios.
  • This scenario has the least amount of cost savings and is more disruptive than scenario 3, Conrad said.  

This map shows an overview of which schools could be impacted, and how:

Click here to open the map in a separate window.

Conrad identified scenario 1 as the most disruptive to students and staff with the most savings. But even with multiple closures, the district wouldn’t be anywhere near their budgetary goal.

“We’re not even halfway there to what the board had mentioned Monday night of being our goal for budget sayings. Even in scenario [1], where there are multiple buildings where we’re shifting students around, it’s not even getting us halfway there,” Conrad said. “This might be a halfway point. Might.” 

Once the scenarios had been presented, committee members asked about classroom sizes, transportation costs, and what would happen to the empty buildings. Additionally, several members expressed concern about combining a lot of “low socioeconomic status” students into the same buildings.

“It seems like a really lopsided and uneven SES distribution across our schools,” one member said.

School board member Kay Emerson echoed that concern. Members of the community also took to social media to communicate their frustration at the schools chosen.

“We are consolidating our lowest-income schools into old, out of date buildings. We are forcing these kids to travel quite a distance to their schools – and note who stays open. Why isn’t Hillcrest on the list so that Pinckney can stay open? Why are we even discussing forcing Woodlawn kids to cross the river when New York is so tiny? Look at who these schools serve, and you will have your answer,” Dawn Patterson Shew said in a Facebook post this morning.

School board President Erica Hill mentioned the district’s new equity analysis tool as a way to mitigate disproportionate effects on students from low-income families, and saw some hope in potential closures.

“I see this as an opportunity for the schools that are lower SES to move them into a larger community that has more resources. I think that’s a great opportunity to consider, especially when we’re talking about combining and enrichment from that perspective. I think it’s a great opportunity for the students,” Hill said.

Below is Conrad’s presentation to the committee:

20220112-Boundary_Adv_Committee_Presentation

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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.

More coverage of Lawrence Public Schools:

August Rudisell / Lawrence Times

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