District committee considers schools that Broken Arrow, Pinckney students could attend if those schools close

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Post updated at 8:04 p.m. Wednesday, March 1:

The Lawrence school district’s Boundary Advisory Committee on Wednesday began discussions of possible boundary changes following the school board’s vote to advance hearings over the possible closures of Pinckney and Broken Arrow elementary schools.

The agenda for Wednesday’s meeting was to identify any viable schools that could have room for students from Pinckney and Broken Arrow, not to set final boundaries or schools. Both schools still await public hearings before the board will vote on whether to close them.

The committee started by creating lists of all viable schools that students at each school could go to if they were to close.

For Pinckney, the schools the committee decided were viable were Deerfield, Hillcrest, Sunset Hill, Cordley and New York. 

Committee members said that New York, because of its status as a Montessori, could require more encompassing discussions regarding boundaries. But they decided to leave it on the list for current discussions. 

The committee decided Woodlawn wasn’t a viable option because of its location across the river. The board did not approve a recommendation to hold a hearing for the closure of Woodlawn in large part because of worries about the safety of students walking across the bridge.

“I don’t know that Woodlawn is probably a viable option for Pinckney, but I think every other surrounding elementary probably is,” Lawrence High School Associate Principal Mark Preut said. 

For Broken Arrow, the schools the committee thought were viable were Sunflower, Schwegler, Langston Hughes, Prairie Park and Cordley.

Cordley was the only school that the committee agreed could viably receive students from both possible closures because of its location between Broken Arrow and Pinckney. 

Here’s where those schools are relative to Broken Arrow and Pinckney:

The school board on Monday also voted to repurpose Liberty Memorial Central Middle School as a magnet school, with its exact focus still to be determined, but on a different timeline than the district had proposed. LMCMS will continue to operate as it has during a planning year.

The BAC agreed last week to look at all the district’s boundary lines more comprehensively.

Wednesday’s meeting was only the beginning of a multi-week process, with meetings set for March 8 and March 22 before the committee will report back to the school board on Monday, March 27. 

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The committee will make recommendations to administrators and the school board, but the final boundary decisions are not the BAC’s to make. The lists of alternative schools for Broken Arrow and Pinckney students could also change before the notices of public hearings go out.

RSP & Associates, a consulting firm hired by the district on a $120,000 contract to assist with budget planning, started the meeting with a presentation on important factors to consider in boundary decisions and an overall outlook on boundaries as they stand currently.

The firm has experience with boundary planning, including in Shawnee Mission and Platt County. 

The important factors RSP listed included: 

  • Walkability and safety
  • The underutilization of Woodlawn and the challenge of its location across the river
  • A high density of students near Broken Arrow and the challenge to maintain neighborhood lines
  • Rural students south of K-10 who currently are assigned to Broken Arrow
  • New York Montessori
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Cuyler Dunn (he/him), a contributor to The Lawrence Times, is a student at the University of Kansas School of Journalism. He is a graduate of Lawrence High School where he was the editor-in-chief of the school’s newspaper, The Budget, and was named the 2022 Kansas High School Journalist of the Year. Read more of his work for the Times here.

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