Lawrence school board approves nixing some high school classes

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Lawrence school board members on Monday agreed to curriculum changes that include eliminating the district’s driver’s education offering. Staff said students will still have alternative options to take the class.

Several members of district staff, including Patrick Kelly, Annette Kenoly, Kevin Harrell, and Denise Johnson, spoke to the board about how they came to a proposal to add an English language arts class for speakers of other languages, nix a few other high school classes, and make changes to combine some classes with their advanced versions.

Harrell, executive director of student support and special education, told the board that for many years, driver’s ed has been a summer class available to students ages 14 and up for $225. It’s not required for graduation, so there have been no scholarships or discounts for students who qualify for free and reduced-price lunches. Families have been able to set up payment plans if needed, he said.

The class has faced pandemic-related challenges in the past couple of years, and it’s been difficult to find staff members who are qualified to teach the program. However, some private companies do offer the class in the Lawrence area, and two of them have agreed to provide a discount to Lawrence students, Harrell said.

Recently elected board member Kay Emerson asked if the district had looked at options such as scholarships through the Lawrence Schools Foundation. Harrell said some students have sought that out on their own, but it hasn’t been a formal arrangement through his department. He said the Housing Authority has also helped with the cost on some occasions.

The proposal also eliminates Advanced Biology and Human Biology, and it combines Animal Science with Advanced Animal Science, and Plant Science with Advanced Plant Science. Marci Leuschen, who teaches science classes at Lawrence High School, said changes to biology classes will put all freshmen in the same class.

“We’re working hard right now to transform our biology course using approaches that will improve our ability to differentiate for the learning and also the social-emotional needs of all of our students,” she said. “So the science team really does believe that this strong foundation in biology is going to provide more equitable opportunities for our students than to go and take those advanced science classes their sophomore, their junior and their senior years at both of the high schools.”

The ESOL class is actually one the district has offered for some time, but the change adds specific sections at the request of the district’s ESL coordinator, said Kelly, the district’s chief academic officer. The plan also eliminates algebra for the college-bound because it’s redundant with other offerings, he said.

The board unanimously approved the plan.

2022-2023 calendar approved

The board also approved a calendar for the 2022-2023 school year. It will add Juneteenth as a paid holiday for 12-month staff beginning June 19, 2023.

Spring break is aligned with the University of Kansas’ spring break. Fall break will be a full week for students and nine-month staff, but 12-month staff will work Monday through Wednesday of that week.

Here’s the full calendar:


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Mackenzie Clark (she/her), reporter/founder of The Lawrence Times, can be reached at mclark (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

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