Post updated at 12:20 a.m. Thursday, April 20:
The district’s committee for school boundary planning on Wednesday settled on a final recommendation to the school board that keeps Deerfield students from being transferred to Woodlawn, requires some Hillcrest students to change schools and more.
During their meeting on Wednesday evening, the Lawrence school district’s Boundary Advisory Committee (BAC) came to a consensus on a final recommendation to the school board for new boundaries, which would affect several elementary schools.
As a result of two school closures — Pinckney and Broken Arrow elementary schools — next year, new boundaries would reassign 470 elementary school students to different schools, which affects 14.6% of next year’s kindergarteners through fourth graders.
If the school board approves the BAC’s new recommended boundary plan:
• 69 current Broken Arrow students would be assigned to Cordley; 43 to Langston Hughes; 15 to Prairie Park; and 96 to Schwegler;
• 40 current Pinckney students would be assigned to Deerfield, and 129 would be assigned to Hillcrest;
• 13 Cordley students would be assigned to New York, and
• 30 Hillcrest students would be assigned to Quail Run, as well as 35 to Sunset Hill.
After being presented with the BAC’s previous recommendation, school board members during their meeting on April 10 provided feedback to the committee and asked them to make some changes. RSP & Associates, the budget consultant hired by the district on a $120,000 contract, then applied some of those comments and presented the revised concept6 to the BAC for their approval on Wednesday.
School board feedback directly implemented into the updated recommended concept applied includes:
• No Deerfield students would be assigned to Woodlawn — those Deerfield students who reside north of I-70 would remain in the Deerfield boundary;
• Rural students who reside between the K-10 and U.S. 59 highways would all attend Langston Hughes;
• Second Street would be utilized as a break between Hillcrest and Deerfield, so Pinckney students who reside north of Second street would attend Deerfield and Pinckney students who reside south of 2nd street would attend Hillcrest;
• Fewer students would cross McDonald Drive, but the current Pinckney students who would be assigned to Deerfield would continue to cross McDonald Drive with transportation provided. Pinckney students would be divided among Deerfield and Hillcrest; and
• New York’s boundary will be expanded to the west into the current Cordley boundary, so 13 Cordley students would be assigned to New York.20230419-BAC2
Board members and public commenters during the board’s April 10 meeting also said they’d like all families to be able to transfer freely to their desired schools, but the current recommendation implies the district should follow a “grandfathering” option for families. Incoming fourth and fifth graders and their younger siblings in the district who are assigned to different schools will be automatically approved to transfer to their desired school, and all other families will need to go through the district’s transfer process. Board President Shannon Kimball previously said the district’s transfer process for elementary school students is “quite open.”
Increasing the utilization of Woodlawn has been a goal for BAC members throughout the process, so the previous boundary plan moved 30 Deerfield students to Woodlawn. Since the final recommendation has taken into account concerns about Deerfield students traveling on I-70 to attend Woodlawn, that option would be off the table. Some committee members on Wednesday, though, expressed that they would like to see a continued effort to funnel students into Woodlawn.
Robert Schwarz, CEO of RSP, noted that adjustments to the plan are bound to happen before next school year begins because students will need to be moved around as families request transfers to other schools.
Class size was taken into consideration, and RSP analyzed the projected class size ratios next year if the recommended new boundaries are approved. Langston Hughes and Quail Run are each projected to have one grade with classes above the average class size ratio; Schwegler is projected to have two grades with classes above the average class size ratio; and Sunset Hill is projected to have three grades with classes above the average class size ratio.
RSP did an ethnicity analysis that found the ethnic makeup of schools would not change by more than 5% with the recommended boundary changes, according to their report.
Taking into account students receiving free and reduced lunches (FRLs) has been a previous concern of committee members, so RSP also did an analysis on how many FRL students would be at each school with the recommended new boundaries, though the percentage of each building compared to another does not take into account each building’s varying size.
Schools that would have more than 50% of their student populations receiving FRLs include Cordley, Hillcrest, New York, Schewegler and Woodlawn, with New York being the highest at 64.7% and Hillcrest being the second highest at 63.6%, according to the district’s data in RSP’s report. Schools that would have under 30% of their student population receiving FRLs include Langston Hughes and Quail Run. Langston Hughes would have the lowest percentage of FRL students, 13.6%.
The recommendation also assigns all English Language Learner students who currently attend Pinckney to Hillcrest next year, and all ELL students who currently attend Broken Arrow to Schwegler. Committee members and RSP agreed that prompt and clear communication to ELL families is important with this change.
The final recommendation will be presented for consideration during the school board’s next meeting at 6 p.m. Monday, April 24 at district offices, 110 McDonald Drive. Board members will hear public comment before they take a vote.
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Note: This post has been corrected from a previous version.