Lawrence school board approves new elementary boundaries

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New boundaries approved by the Lawrence school board on a 5-2 vote Monday will reassign students from the two elementary schools that are closing and some students from two schools that aren’t, based on where they reside.

The new boundaries for the 2023-24 school year — created by the district’s Boundary Advisory Committee (BAC) — determine which schools Broken Arrow and Pinckney elementary school students will be assigned to when their schools are closed after the end of this school year. Some Hillcrest and Cordley students will also be reassigned to other schools.

Board President Shannon Kimball, Vice President Paula Vann, Past President Erica Hill, and board members GR Gordon-Ross and Kelly Jones voted to approve the new boundaries; board members Carole Cadue-Blackwood and Kay Emerson voted “no.” 

Under the plan: 
69 current Broken Arrow students are assigned to Cordley, 43 to Langston Hughes, 15 to Prairie Park, and 96 to Schwegler;
40 current Pinckney students are assigned to Deerfield, and 129 to Hillcrest;
30 Hillcrest students are assigned to Quail Run, and 35 to Sunset Hill; and
13 Cordley students are assigned to New York.

Director of Communications Julie Boyle said during Monday’s meeting that she and the district’s “transition team” have met three or four times to work on their communication plan and that she is hoping to contact families with updates soon. She said they are waiting to receive official data files from RSP & Associates to match with their data, and then they will be able to notify specific families affected by the reassignments about their new school’s hours, Boys and Girls Club services, student tour dates, parent group meetings and more.

“We will do it as quickly as possible, but I really in this case am more interested about the accuracy than I am about the speed,” Boyle said. “I think we will share with families in the interim while we’re waiting for those data transfers to happen that we are waiting to get accurate information to them and will give them an estimate on when we’re able to do that, and we’re hoping that would be possible by either the end of this week or early next week.”

Robert Schwarz, CEO of RSP & Associates, the consulting firm hired by the district on a $120,000 contract to provide projections and assist its budget process, said the district may need to move more students around to balance out students who choose to transfer to schools they were not assigned to. The district’s “grandfathering option” will allow incoming fourth and fifth graders and their younger siblings to be automatically approved for transfer requests, Lewis confirmed during the meeting. All other families must go through the district’s transfer process.

All English Language Learners (ELL) students who currently attend Pinckney are assigned to Hillcrest next year, and all ELL students who currently attend Broken Arrow are assigned to Schwegler. Superintendent Anthony Lewis told Jones during Monday’s meeting that the district will promptly communicate changes to ELL families. Other ELL students will attend the school sites where their current ELL programs are based, unless they choose to go through the transfer process.

Hill shared her concern about the district’s class sizes. According to RSP’s projections in line with the new boundaries, Langston Hughes and Quail Run elementary schools are each projected to have one grade with class sizes that are larger than the district’s preferred student-teacher ratio; Schwegler is projected to have two grades with classes that are larger than the district’s staff ratio; and Sunflower is projected to have three grades with classes above the average class size ratio. 

“I remain concerned about the class sizes,” Hill said. “… 25 in a class — kindergarten — that’s large.”

Schwarz said the district would have to find a way to change its class ratios for class sizes to be lowered, and it’s currently following a board-approved 25:1 student to staff ratio for kindergarten through third grade and a 30:1 ratio for fourth and fifth grades. After the vote, Hill reiterated that the board should make a concerted effort moving forward to target class size issues.

“There should be a consideration, in my mind — an effort — to get our class sizes lowered and smaller,” Hill said. “We hear from teachers, we hear from parents, that their class sizes are way too large, and so we need a commitment to get our class sizes smaller.”

Emerson explained she voted against the boundary plan because of high class sizes and transportation safety, and Cadue-Blackwood echoed similar sentiments regarding her “no” vote.

According to the meeting agenda for Monday, the physical boundaries for the following elementary schools have changed to:

  • Cordley’s boundaries expand south of 23rd Street to Kansas Highway 10, utilizing the western boundaries of Naismith Trail and Louisiana Street. This cuts into the current Broken Arrow boundary;
  • Deerfield’s boundaries expand east across McDonald Drive, into north of Second Street, which cuts into the current Pinckney boundary;
  • Hillcrest’s boundaries expand north to Second Street, which cuts into the current Pinckney boundary;
  • Langston Hughes’s boundaries expand south of K-10 and west of U.S. Route 59 highway, which cuts into the current Broken Arrow rural area;
  • New York’s boundaries expand west to parcel lines beyond Illinois and south of Ninth Street, which cuts into the current Cordley boundary;
  • Prairie Park boundaries expand west to U.S. Route 59 highway – into Iowa Street, along K-10 – which cuts into the current Broken Arrow boundary;
  • Quail Run’s boundaries expand south of Bob Billings Drive to the eastern section of Alvamar Golf Course, which cuts into the current Hillcrest boundary;
  • Schwegler’s boundaries expand southeast along 25th Street to Louisiana Street and south to K-10, which cuts into the current Broken Arrow boundary; and
  • Sunset Hill’s boundaries expand east to Iowa Street, which cuts into the current Hillcrest boundary.

The district has committed to providing transportation to students who reside north of Second Street so that they don’t have to cross McDonald Drive, which board members and community members have voiced is a dangerous street students shouldn’t be crossing. 

Director of Human Relations and Transportation Ron May said the district will pay extra for a larger bus, with room for 71 students. That way the 40 current Pinckney students can be added to the larger bus on an existing route. Since rural students who reside between the K-10 and U.S. 59 highways would all attend Langston Hughes, they would be bused together. 

Visit this link to view Monday’s presentation on the approved new boundary plan.

The Lawrence school board will reconvene at 6 p.m. Monday, May 8 at district offices, 110 McDonald Drive.

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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.

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