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Lawrence school board to consider hiring firm to help determine the future of neighborhood schools

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The Lawrence school board will consider a proposal Monday to hire a consulting firm to assist in projecting future enrollment and use of school buildings.

If approved, the consulting contract would cost up to $120,000 from the district’s general fund.

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The board considered school closings for the current fiscal year as part of an effort to cut $6.4 million from the budget, but ultimately chose to take closings off the table for the 2022-23 school year. However, members of the board have said they’re willing to consider closing schools in the future.

At Monday’s meeting, the board will consider a proposal for a facility master plan from Overland Park-based consultants RSP & Associates in conjunction with an architecture firm and an engineering firm, according to the meeting agenda. RSP & Associates, which helps districts in the Midwest with school planning, has done enrollment projections for USD 497 over the past few years.

The plan would include five-year student enrollment projections, a development and housing analysis, and a demographic profile.

The proposed plan is “designed to plan for facilities that align the current and future educational need of the district’s students with Lawrence Public Schools’ Strategic Plan and available resources, and will be developed via engagement with planners, the Lawrence community and district committees and subcommittees,” according to the meeting agenda.

In other business:

• School district administrators will ask the board to approve the maximum budget authority and maximum property tax rate for publication for the 2022-2023 budget, as well as set a budget hearing meeting for Sept. 12. The budget report was not available with the online agenda as of Sunday afternoon.

• The board will hear two reports. The first is on adding two school school resource officers (SROs). Currently, two Lawrence police officers are assigned to each high school, and they help at middle and elementary schools as needed. The Lawrence Police Department recently offered to supply two SROs to the district at no cost, which would allow the district to assign one SRO to each high school and each of the four middle schools, according to the agenda. The second report is an update on repair work for water intrusion at the Free State High School Outdoor Athletic Facility. Neither report was included in the agenda materials as of Sunday afternoon.

• The board will hold a closed-door executive session at the end of the meeting to discuss employee contract negotiations.

The regular session will begin at 6 p.m. Monday at the district offices, 110 McDonald Drive. Meetings are open to the public, livestreamed on the district’s YouTube channel and broadcast on Midco channel 26. Full meeting agendas are available at this link.

To make comment virtually during the board meeting, email PublicComment@usd497.org by 6 p.m. on the day of the meeting to sign up to participate by Webex video/phone conferencing.

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Maya Hodison (she/her), equity reporter, can be reached at mhodison (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

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