Lawrence community replicates students’ steps through school closure, boundary revision scenarios

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A group set out Monday afternoon with a goal of showing what it’s like to walk a mile or two in a student’s shoes. Walkers began the 1.8-mile journey at Schwegler Elementary under a sunny sky en route to Broken Arrow Elementary.

With water bottles and backpacks in tow, families marched south down Ousdahl Road hoping to show the school board the realities students would face trudging back to the Broken Arrow neighborhood should the board vote to close their neighborhood school. Save Our Schools 497 sponsored the gathering with the intent of following the city and school’s collaborative Safe Routes to School map.

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Students who live within 2.5 miles of their school don’t receive busing from the district unless they qualify through other services such as special education or English to Speakers of Other Language programs.

In a Facebook post, the Save Our Schools 497 group emphasized the prevalence of children who don’t qualify for district-provided transportation.

“Our students deserve to have a walkable school, as many of them are walkers. It is important for the school board to see how far the walk will be for our students who live near (Broken Arrow) and will not qualify for (busing) but do not have the transportation to get to school.”

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A series of “Walk in Their Shoes” events are planned for this week in response to the Lawrence school district’s budget-cutting proposals and possible boundary revisions. Cost-trimming ideas include nearly a dozen scenarios that, if approved by the board, could shut down and consolidate elementary and middle schools to fill a deficit of $3.2 to $3.85 million.

In an email last week, Brandon Daley, a fifth grade teacher at Woodlawn Elementary School, invited the board and district leaders to join him on a walk as well.

Each morning at 7 a.m. Wednesday through Friday this week, Daley will lead a group from Liberty Memorial Central Middle School to Woodlawn. Together they will traverse downtown traffic, the Kansas River bridge and potentially icy and frigid conditions if the weather forecast holds.

That walk is estimated at 2.1 miles and 39 minutes, Daley said.

“Warm September mornings in the sunrise sound like a good source of exercise and to be able to see the city they call home. We may fail to consider what a walk to school looks like in February.”

Daley said he wants to understand what travel concerns students could face and collect data on crosswalks, traffic, weather, commute times and possible hazards. Through the experiences, he hopes to understand the mental shift required to focus and access learning after a long commute and provide those data points to the district for consideration in the decision-making process.

Tricia Masenthin/The Lawrence Times Families walk south down Ousdahl Road from Schwegler Elementary to Broken Arrow Elementary on Jan. 31, 2022 in support of the Save Our Schools effort in the Lawrence school district.
Tricia Masenthin/The Lawrence Times Families walk south down Ousdahl Road from Schwegler Elementary to Broken Arrow Elementary on Jan. 31, 2022 in support of the Save Our Schools effort in the Lawrence school district.
Tricia Masenthin/The Lawrence Times Families walk south down Ousdahl Road from Schwegler Elementary to Broken Arrow Elementary on Jan. 31, 2022 in support of the Save Our Schools.
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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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