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Lawrence school board on Monday to consider approving maximum budget

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Lawrence school board members on Monday will look to approve the district’s maximum budget for 2022-23.

At the beginning of its meeting, the board will hold a budget hearing regarding the proposed $231.69 million in maximum budget expenditures. 

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The final approval comes after the district faced a $6.4 million shortfall, resulting in extensive cuts to staff positions, student programs and more, as well as the addition of multigrade classrooms and the use of a consulting firm to help with next year’s budgeting process. Both certified and classified staff contracts and salaries have now been approved.

At this point, board members may lower the proposed budget, but they cannot increase it. The proposed budget lowers the district’s mill levy by about 1.1 mills; however, most property owners will still see tax increases because assessed valuations rose dramatically this year. See more budget coverage here.

In other business:

The district on Aug. 8 hired RSP & Associates to produce a five-year student enrollment projection, a development and housing analysis and a demographic profile as well as a recommendation of facility usage. The results are set to be delivered by February 2023 to assist in budgeting for the 2023-2024 school year.

Part of RSP’s plan includes forming a Futures Planning Committee of students, parents, guardians, faculty, staff and community members. The application for the committee opened Aug. 31 and closed on Friday ahead of the committee’s first meeting, scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 14. The board on Monday will hear an update on the status of the committee.

New board member GR Gordon-Ross will be sworn in by Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew. The board on Aug. 30 selected Gordon-Ross to fill a vacant seat after former board member Andrew Nussbaum resigned in July.

On the board’s consent agenda*:

* a list of items that are considered routine and generally approved in one motion without discussion:

In conjunction with RSP’s plan, board members will consider approving up to $85,000 for architectural consulting services to create a facility master plan. “The architectural services needs are to complete a building condition assessment, identify the student capacity based on programming for each facility, identify facility needs along with associated fiscal cost estimates; and determine facility expandability capacity,” according to the agenda item.

The board will consider extending an agreement with Equal Opportunity Schools intended to increase the enrollment of underrepresented students in Advanced Placement classes. This will be the third year the district has partnered with EOS.

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School board members in May raised concerns about an anticipated 26% decrease in the percentage of Black juniors and seniors participating in AP classes — the largest drop among any racial or ethnic group over data from 2020 through 2022. Read more about that here.

The $48,800 agreement will be paid from the district’s Title IV grant funds, according to the agenda item.

Board members will consider a new $30,000 contract with nonprofit STEM GRO, to be paid from federal COVID-19 relief funds. The partnership “will focus on historically underserved and underrepresented students in (science, technology, engineering and math) fields and employment,” and specifically students who attend Liberty Memorial Central and Billy Mills middle schools this school year.

“If we want more S.T.E.M. graduates, we must promote ideas, language, people, and programs that demonstrate relevance and foster a sense of belonging to all students regardless of gender, ethnicity, or zip code,” the agenda item states.

The meeting will begin at 6 p.m. Monday, Sept. 12 at 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 give public 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.

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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