Fate of two Lawrence elementary schools to be voted on Monday night

Published: Mar. 27, 2023 at 6:50 AM CDT
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LAWRENCE, Kan. (KCTV) - Will the doors stay open or closed? That’s the question many parents are asking ahead of a final vote for the Lawrence school board. Tonight, the board will decide whether or not to close Broken Arrow and Pinckney Elementary Schools.

The closings are a part of a larger budget proposal that would save roughly four million dollars for the next school year. In February 2023, the school board decided to cut 50 full-time staff members across the district, among other changes.

In a letter to parents, Lawrence Public Schools Superintendent Anthony Lewis said the schools are not being used efficiently and changes need to be made.

“The administrative team has developed a plan using data-driven decisions. A professional analysis shows the local outlook for potential residential development activity is 5-10 years out, with at least five years before expected regional growth from Panasonic Industries in De Soto,” Lewis said in the letter to parents. “The current utilization of our elementary facilities is 76%, meaning we have about 1,351 available elementary seats. Middle school utilization is 72% or 843 available seats. Projections indicate our enrollment will drop by 300 students by 2027-2028. Lower enrollment means less funding. The district simply cannot afford to continue to operate this inefficiently.”

The possibility of the two school closings has left many parents with questions for the school board. Melody Alexander is a Pinckney Elementary parent and said the school closing will put her family and others in difficult situations.

“We chose to live in the neighborhood that we do so we could have our kids attend Pinckney,” Alexander said. “We have a fourth grader and kindergartener we crafted our life around so we could be involved parents at Pinckney.”

On March 27, the district held public hearings for both schools, with dozens of parents and community members voicing their opinions to keep the schools open. You can head to the district’s YouTube page to watch both of these hearings.

This won’t be the only rally to keep the school open, Save our Schools 497 will meet at the district office before the final vote at 6 p.m. At least four of the seven board members must vote in favor of the closures in order for the schools to be shut down.

“On the heels of COVID-19 schools were a safe space and that was taken away from them during the pandemic, and they’re at risk of losing them again,” Alexander said. “Losing this network is going to be detrimental to them. My family will be okay, but I worry about the ones that don’t have that support network and there are a lot of them that don’t.”

The board will hear from parents once more before the decision is made at tonight’s board meeting.