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Lawrence school district programs moving into Pinckney and Broken Arrow buildings

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Also: Middle school redesign underway; restroom signs getting more inclusive; fiber network in progress and more

The former Pinckney and Broken Arrow elementary schools will not sit empty this coming year. The Lawrence school district is working to transition some of its programs into the now-closed schools.

Following the closures of Pinckney and Broken Arrow, district administrators began considering how the empty buildings would be best used. Board Past President Shannon Kimball during Monday’s Lawrence school board meeting confirmed that the programs formerly housed in the district’s East Heights building have been moved to Pinckney, and Native American Student Services (NASS) will soon be moved to Broken Arrow.

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The district’s facilities committee on July 19 met and provided some updates on several projects that facilities and operations staff are working on, Kimball said. 

The Community Transition (C-Tran) and Project Search programs as well their secondary therapeutic classroom have now moved from East Heights to the Pinckney building. Kimball said updated signage to reflect the name change to “Community Connections at Pinckney” will be installed at the building before the 2023-24 school year begins. Kimball also said district staff members have been discussing the possibility of hosting a housewarming later in the year to officially welcome in those programs.

“I’m looking forward to that opportunity for the open house to share with the community just how much this particular move of those programs from the East Heights building into Pinckney is going to serve and support the needs of students and families from all over Lawrence that receive services as part of those programs, and I’m really excited for those students and staff moving into that space,” Kimball said.

The board on May 22 approved the release of a Request for Proposals (RFP) to begin the process to sell the East Heights property at 1430 Haskell Ave. If sold, those funds will be added to the district’s capital outlay account.

Facilities and operations staff are also working on making the space in the former Broken Arrow Elementary School suitable for students and families who participate in NASS programs and utilize its services. Kimball said those efforts are set to be finished this month, before the 2023-24 school year begins.

Native American students make up approximately 5% of the district’s student population, and approximately 120 out of the 574 federally recognized tribes are represented within the district. NASS Coordinator Kenny St. Pierre previously shared excitement about the idea that NASS could have more space and comfortability for its activities.

“I think there are a lot of exciting possibilities based on the space that they will have available to them to expand the reach of their programming to our Native students and their families,” Kimball said.

Other projects in the works

• Middle school redesign: Superintendent Anthony Lewis said a district committee of sixth through eighth grade educators and administrators is working on redesign recommendations. After Lewis recommended repurposing Liberty Memorial Central Middle School as a themed or magnet school for the coming year, school board members on Feb. 27 directed the administration to form a committee to take a year to look at possible ways that could be done. 

Lewis said Monday that the committee will have an update for the board on Sept. 25 and recommendations on Dec. 11 for changes that would take effect in the 2024-25 school year. 

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• Inclusive restrooms: Signage outside of most single-user restrooms across district buildings have been updated to reflect gender inclusivity, Kimball said during the board meeting.

Facilities and operations staff were able to quickly update the restroom signage in all but six district buildings. The remaining six buildings should be finished by the time the 2023-24 school year starts, and the entire project cost “just a few hundred dollars,” Kimball said. She said it was one of the easiest things the district could do to make the restrooms available to all rather than have them be identified by gender.

“I appreciate that staff worked quickly and diligently to do something that may seem small but I think is an important statement about our commitment to protecting the safety and dignity of our staff and students,” she said. 

• Solar energy: The district could save money over time by pursuing solar energy and recoup some of the setup costs through tax credits. Board member GR Gordon-Ross said the district has received seven bids for a solar power pilot project. He said district staff members were still going through those bids to make sure they get the the right vendor for the work. 

• Fiber network: The school board in January 2022 approved a plan to build a districtwide WAN fiber internet network. The district on Aug. 1 will celebrate the network’s completion.

Gordon-Ross said the network soon will move into phase 2, when the district can look at how to use the fiber network to extend high-speed wireless internet access outside of school buildings to students and staff while they’re at home on their own devices.

• Facility repairs: Facilities and operations staff are currently undertaking roof and building exterior repairs, asphalt repairs and replacements, and HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) upgrades.

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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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