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Closure proposals missing from Lawrence school board agenda; board will consider nixing some classes and more

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Meeting to start with hourlong executive session to discuss superintendent evaluation

The Lawrence school board will meet at 6 p.m. Monday, Jan. 24 at 110 McDonald Drive. Masks are required to attend in person. The meeting will also be livestreamed on the district’s YouTube channel.

As of publication time, there was nothing on the board’s agenda to address the possible school closures and cost-cutting proposals presented at the Budget and Program Evaluation Committee meeting Wednesday. A board member or the superintendent could open that discussion during their reports to the board, but it was unclear Sunday whether that would happen.

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Board members will need to decide by the end of January whether they want to leave the option of closing schools on the table in order to hold public hearings in time to make their final decisions in the spring. 

However, several community members are planning to rally ahead of the meeting as part of their campaign, #SaveOurSchools497. 

Key points – the board will:

• Hold a closed-door session to discuss the superintendent’s evaluation.

Context: At the beginning of the meeting, school board members will recess for an hour to an executive session to discuss Superintendent Dr. Anthony Lewis’ evaluation. The state requires an annual school board evaluation of the superintendent for the first four years of their tenure. Lewis joined the district in the 2018-19 school year.

• Consider eliminating some high school courses.

Context: The board will hear from Patrick Kelly, chief academic officer, about a proposal that would eliminate some high school classes. The proposal would also add an English language arts class for speakers of other languages. The changes would be effective for the 2022-2023 school year. 

The changes proposed, according to the agenda:

  • Deletions: Advanced Biology, Algebra for the College Bound, Human Biology, Driver’s Education
  • Additions: ESOL – ELA 
  • Changes: Animal Science, Plant Science, Advanced Animal Science, Advanced Plant Science (change to co-requisites), and other course description changes 

The district reviews and updates curriculum periodically, and the board must approve major changes, including adding and deleting classes. The agenda memo does not explain why the particular classes on the list were selected, and as of publication time, there was no report attached. 

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• Review the 2022-2023 school year calendar.

Context: The Calendar Committee has reviewed and drafted the 2022-23 school year calendar. If passed:

  • Fall break will again last for an entire week for students and nine-month staff, based on positive feedback after the change was made this year, according to the agenda. Twelve-month staff will work Monday through Wednesday, but Thursday and Friday will remain paid holidays for all staff eligible for holiday pay.
  • Staff will receive an additional paid holiday for Juneteenth. Staff members who work 12 months will have a paid holiday on June 19, beginning in 2023.
  • Spring break will remain aligned with KU’s spring break. 
  • Elementary schools will continue with a quarterly schedule, as they did this year. 
  • There will be two classified professional development days, negotiated with the PAL-CWA, on Oct. 14 and Jan. 4.

Find the full draft of the calendar here.

On the consent agenda: 

The consent agenda includes routine items that are considered altogether with one vote, unless a board member or the superintendent asks to pull an item for discussion. On Monday’s consent agenda, the board will: 

• Consider final approval of the formal agreement between PAL-CWA and the district.

Context: The board approved a tentative agreement with the Personnel Association of Lawrence – the union of classified staff, including paraeducators, custodians, food service workers and more – on Oct. 25. The content of that agreement was approved before the document was finalized and edited. The document is now in its final form, ready for the board’s approval. Wages start at $9.43 hourly. Read the full agreement here.

• Consider an agreement for districtwide HVAC upgrades for $225,520.

Context: The board also approved an agreement for HVAC upgrades across the district during its Nov. 8 meeting. Capital outlay funds — or funds that are restricted to pay for building improvements and similar purchases — would be used for initial design fees, and then the ESSER application will request funds for all costs associated with each project. 

“This proposal is necessary for the ESSER funds application for district-wide HVAC systems improvements. The scope of work for each building has been identified to improve the indoor air quality of each building,” according to the agenda memo.

Among schools that have been identified for HVAC improvements are Woodlawn and New York elementary schools, both of which are buildings that could close under current proposals; also included are Liberty Memorial Central Middle School and Broken Arrow Elementary, which could be repurposed under the proposals.

• Consider leasing out space at Wakarusa Valley for $4,624.27 per month.

Context: The district closed Wakarusa Valley Elementary after the 2010-11 school year. In 2018, the board approved an agreement for Southeast Kansas Educational Service Center – Greenbush to lease space at the building for an academic learning center. 

The new lease would be for 3 1/2 years for $4,624.27 per month, with an annual approval beginning Jan. 1, 2022 and ending June 30, 2025.

Find the complete school board meeting agenda at this link. Those who wish to give public comment virtually should email PublicComment@usd497.org before 6 p.m. the day of the meeting to receive a link to join the WebEx conference.

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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.

Click here for more coverage of Lawrence Public Schools closures

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August Rudisell / Lawrence Times

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