As two Lawrence elementary schools potentially face closures, the school district’s Boundary Advisory Committee on Wednesday evening decided on a proposal for new boundaries, though it’s still unclear what they’ll look like.
The Boundary Advisory Committee (BAC), along with the district’s consultant, RSP & Associates, has been tasked with creating new recommended boundaries ahead of public hearings for the potential closures of two district elementary schools, Pinckney and Broken Arrow. The boundaries suggest where students at Pinckney and Broken Arrow would transfer if their schools close next year, as well as where students at schools that aren’t up for closure would be reassigned.
The proposed map with new boundary lines was not made available Wednesday evening to those outside of the committee. A map was displayed on screen but not included in any handouts, and Julie Boyle, district spokesperson, said after the meeting that the map was not available.
• Lawrence school district releases new proposed boundary map ahead of closure hearings, March 23, 2023
During their last meeting on March 8, BAC decided on a “baseline” concept — Concept 2 — of new boundaries.
The main factors that drove the committee away from choosing the other concept RSP presented during the last meeting, Concept 1, was that it was “disruptive,” moving students all over the place. They also didn’t like that it moved students out of Woodlawn Elementary, and committee members expressed they wanted to funnel more students into Woodlawn rather than take them away. Concept 2 achieves that goal of addressing Woodlawn’s utilization. The committee also wanted to move more students into Quail Run Elementary.
During the March 8 meeting, RSP & Associates CEO Rob Schwarz said the committee would work to better “balance out” the elementary schools, such as moving students from Sunflower into Quail Run and moving more students into Langston Hughes, for example.
Revisions made to Concept 2 since the last meeting do not move any students from Sunflower into Quail Run but do move more Broken Arrow students into Langston Hughes — 30 rather than 16.
Some committee members said they were concerned that “high-needs” student populations would have to move to other schools without the Title I funding and resources they need from their schools. For instance, 63.2% of Pinckney’s students currently qualify for free and reduced-price lunches. The majority of Pinckney students — 123 out of 169 — would be assigned to Deerfield. As students funnel into Deerfield, 20 Deerfield students would be reassigned to Sunset Hill and 30 would be reassigned to Woodlawn, according to the new proposed boundaries.
Most Broken Arrow students would be assigned to Cordley and Schwegler, while others would be assigned to Langston Hughes, Prairie Park and Sunflower.
Incoming fourth or fifth grade students who have one or more siblings and have been reassigned to a new school would have an option of which school they’d like to attend, BAC member and school board member GR Gordon-Ross said. Those students would be automatically approved for a transfer.
Kindergarteners through third grade students and fourth or fifth grade students without siblings in the district who have been reassigned would not have the same choice, but they would be able to go through the district’s transfer process, he said.
Current Langston Hughes, New York, Prairie Park, Quail Run, Schwegler, Sunflower, Sunset Hill and Woodlawn students would not be reassigned to other schools with these new proposed boundaries.
Wednesday was the BAC’s last scheduled meeting. The committee came to a consensus to move forward with the current proposal as the recommendation to the school board, with the caveat that transportation routes will be analyzed a bit further to minimize the amount of time kids have to spend on bus rides or the number of buses that have to travel.
Schwarz said if the district’s transportation personnel can quickly deliver his team specifics about slight changes that need to be made for better transportation efficiency, the final map proposal will be available for Saturday’s public hearings on the two school closures.
The Broken Arrow hearing will be from 10 a.m. to noon in the school’s gym, 2704 Louisiana St. The Pinckney hearing will be from 2 to 4 p.m. in the school’s gym, 810 W. Sixth St. They’re open to the public, but there will be no livestreams and no virtual public comment. Visit this link for more information about the hearings and how to sign up to speak.
This boundary proposal, pending potential changes between now and Saturday, will be presented to the Lawrence school board during its next meeting on Monday, March 27.
The board is set to vote on school closures during their March 27 meeting, but they will not vote on boundaries during that meeting, Gordon-Ross said. He said the board would actually take a final vote on new boundaries during their Monday, April 10 meeting.
Update, 6:20 p.m. Thursday, March 23:
The district released this revised boundary map Thursday afternoon:BAC_Revised_LargeMap_032323
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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.