Article updated at 5:44 p.m. Tuesday:
The Lawrence school district’s Boundary Advisory Committee and its Budget and Program Evaluation Committee will both meet Wednesday, according to an email from district spokesperson Julie Boyle.
Last Wednesday, the BAC met and heard from district staff multiple scenarios that would involve closing two or more Lawrence school buildings. The BPEC has been tasked with determining ways to curb a multimillion-dollar budget shortfall the district faces.
The BAC will meet from 4 to 5 p.m., and BPEC will meet from 5 to 6:30 p.m., Wednesday at district offices, 110 McDonald Drive. The meetings will also be livestreamed on the district’s YouTube channel. Both meetings are open to the public, but committees do not take public comment. Boyle’s email did not include agendas, and none had been posted on the committees’ webpages as of late Tuesday afternoon.
Schools that potentially could face closures or be repurposed in the proposed scenarios the BAC discussed last week included New York, Pinckney, Woodlawn and Broken Arrow elementary schools and Liberty Memorial Central Middle School. People in those school communities have begun a campaign to keep their schools open, launching Monday by chalking positive messages up and down the schools’ sidewalks. They’re also using #saveourschools497 to stay in touch on social media.
Hillcrest Elementary has also been part of the conversation. As one of their budget savings suggestions, BPEC’s English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) subcommittee members also had proposed closing Hillcrest, distributing its students between other ESOL programs and other schools.
Details of that scenario were not fleshed out during last week’s BAC meeting. Boyle said the BAC will discuss a boundary scenario for the Hillcrest proposal on Wednesday.
Boyle said district staff is working on the data on boundary revisions for each of the scenarios, how many students would be affected in each scenario, and from which schools. That information will be posted to the BAC webpage, she said.
School board President Erica Hill has mentioned the district’s new equity analysis tool as a way to have a better idea of any unintended consequences of the proposals. The school board has been discussing an equity analysis tool since a special meeting on Dec. 20. The Times asked where the district is in the process of applying that tool to each scenario.
“The Budget and Program Evaluation Committee will determine the process for completing an equity analysis of each subcommittee proposal,” Boyle said Tuesday. “When finalized, the equity analysis tool will be posted to the BPEC’s webpage.”
The timeline for these big decisions to be made is tight. Kathy Johnson, executive director of finance for the district, told the BAC last week that the school board should publish proposals and host public hearings by its Feb. 14 meeting, and make decisions on closures in late March or early April. Changes would go into effect in the fall.
One concern families have shared about Kennedy Elementary was the fast timeline of the district’s decision to close that school to grades K-5 and repurpose it as an early childhood center. Families were informed of the possibility that the school could close in March 2021, and in April, the board voted 6-1 to close it.
Community members interested in these issues can track the latest school closure news and catch up on background from The Lawrence Times on this page.
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Note: The end time for the BPEC meeting has been corrected in this article.