Community group plans rallies ahead of meetings
The Lawrence school district on Thursday released a map showing how elementary boundaries could change if the school board chooses to move forward with closing two elementary schools.
Public hearings for the potential closures of Broken Arrow and Pinckney elementary schools are scheduled for this Saturday, and a community group is planning to rally ahead of both in support of keeping the buildings open.
The updated boundary map, which is a recommendation from the district’s Boundary Advisory Committee, would mean that in addition to all Broken Arrow and Pinckney students transferring schools:
• 13 Cordley students would transfer to Hillcrest;
• 30 Hillcrest students would transfer to Quail Run;
• 20 Deerfield students would transfer to Sunset Hill; and
• 30 Deerfield students would transfer to Woodlawn.
Tables within updated data published to the district’s website Thursday also include breakdowns of projections on how enrollment numbers could change at schools that would remain open and those schools’ building capacities, the percentage of students who qualify for free and reduced-price lunches, student ethnicities and class sizes:20230323-BAC-presentation-Updated-pages
However, school board member GR Gordon-Ross said during the BAC’s Wednesday meeting that the school board would not take final votes on boundary recommendations until their Monday, April 10 meeting.
The Lawrence school board on Feb. 28 voted to hold public hearings — which are required by state law when districts are considering school closures — for Broken Arrow and Pinckney. They voted against holding a hearing on closing Woodlawn, the only public school north of the Kansas River, largely because board members voiced concerns about transportation and didn’t want students attempting to cross the Kansas River bridge.
Each potential closure would save an estimated $300,000 to $400,000, according to numbers the district has provided, though there’s been no breakdown of those estimates included in public documents thus far.
The school board hoped to make $9 million worth of cuts for the district’s 2023-24 budget, primarily in order to increase staff wages. The budget package the superintendent recommended to the board last month, minus closing Woodlawn, included roughly $4.5 million in potential cuts. About $3.25 million of that came from cutting 50 full-time staff positions, which the board has authorized, but it includes no cuts to administrator positions.
Hearings for the potential school closures are scheduled for Saturday, March 25:
• Broken Arrow’s will be from 10 a.m. to noon in the school’s gym, 2704 Louisiana St.; and
• Pinckney’s will be from 2 to 4 p.m. in the school’s gym, 810 W. Sixth St.
School board President Shannon Kimball will lead each hearing, and the board will be present to hear comments.
The district will not have a livestream available as a virtual option, but it will be providing free child care for school-age children so families who need that service can attend. There will also be an American Sign Language interpreter present.
Those interested in participating in the public hearings can email PublicComment@usd497.org to sign up in advance or complete a signup sheet at the hearings by the start time of either hearing. District spokesperson Julie Boyle said comments during the hearings can be related to either school closure.
Community members may also share their thoughts on the recommended school closures ahead of the board’s scheduled final vote next week. School board members will meet at 6 p.m. Monday, March 27 at district offices, 110 McDonald Drive. People may sign up to give public comment during that meeting the same ways, by emailing PublicComment@usd497.org or filling out a signup sheet before the meeting begins. That meeting will be livestreamed on the district’s YouTube channel.
Here’s the full-size updated map of elementary boundaries:BAC_Revised_LargeMap_032323
Save Our Schools 497 (SOS 497), a community group formed to oppose school closures, plans to lead rallies ahead of each public hearing, according to a news release sent by co-founder Alicia Erickson. SOS 497 has regularly rallied before school board meetings in which the board planned to discuss school closures.
“For SOS 497, the discussion is not, and has never been, about buildings. It is about the people that work in those buildings and the connections they create,” according to the release. “Closing schools eliminates those positions and dilutes all student’s access to crucial staff and teachers.”
The rallies are open to all community members interested in joining and are scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Saturday before the Broken Arrow hearing and 1:30 p.m. Saturday before the Pinckney hearing, according to the release. Participants will meet in front of each building and are encouraged to bring signs.
SOS 497 will also rally from 5 to 6 p.m. Monday, March 27 outside district offices ahead of the board’s final vote.
To learn more about SOS497, contact Erickson by phone at 785-969-3482 or by email at email@example.com. More information and resources can also be accessed at saveourschools497.org.