Lawrence school board to explore potential for solar energy use, hear equity update

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Lawrence school board members on Monday will meet early to learn about adopting solar energy technology. They will also hear an equity update on chronic absenteeism, behavioral issues and academic achievement among students.

In a work session ahead of their regular meeting on Monday, board members will weigh the option to implement solar power as a way to reduce emissions, according to the meeting agenda. The amount of money it may cost or save the district to implement the technology is currently unknown as the district begins to investigate.

A Futures Planning Committee member introduced the idea to implement solar power, and then that person’s table group during a meeting activity added it to their recommended budget reduction package. The Futures Planning Committee then voted to recommend the group’s budget reduction package. Though solar power was not included in the board-approved budget plan, district administrators said they would look into the recommendation.

Alan Lankford, of Lankford Fendler Consulting Engineers Inc., will present to the board a report on solar energy that involves information about a potential pilot program, according to the agenda.

• Equity report: Additionally, the board on Monday will hear a report from administrators on the district’s programs and initiatives used to make high levels of achievement more equitable for students, according to the meeting agenda. The report will also update the board with third-quarter data on student attendance, behavioral issues, academic achievement and more.

According to a presentation attached in the meeting agenda for Monday, chronic absenteeism — meaning students who have missed at least 10% of classes — has slightly increased to 33.1% of all students from 31.6% during the second quarter. At the high school level, 42% of students are considered chronically absent. However, average daily attendance districtwide this school year is slightly higher than it was in 2021-22, according to the report.

The district has adopted a restorative practice approach to behavior issues in hopes of reducing in-school and out-of-school suspensions. Middle school behavior events in the second quarter had shot up from the first quarter, specifically at West, Billy Mills and Liberty Memorial Central, which was a focused concern during administrators’ last equity update report to the board. Behavior events decreased from the second quarter to the third quarter, according to the presentation.

Visit this link to view the full presentation.

• Executive session: Monday’s meeting will conclude with an executive session, or closed-door meeting, where the board and district administrators will discuss employee salary negotiations, according to the meeting agenda. If the board takes any action after the executive session, it will b public.

The school board’s work session is scheduled for 5:15 p.m. Monday, May 8 at district offices, 110 McDonald Drive. The regular meeting will then begin at 6 p.m. Meetings are open to the public, livestreamed on the district’s YouTube channel and broadcast on Midco channel 26. Full meeting agendas are available at this link.

To give public comment during the board meeting, sign up before the meeting starts either in person or by emailing Commenters may request to participate by Webex video/phone conferencing.

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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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