LAWRENCE, Kan. – Two of four Lawrence Public Schools were saved from the chopping block early Tuesday morning, but one of the schools nearly ended up closing when board members said they accidentally voted the wrong way.
Pinckney and Broken Arrow Elementary Schools will both be receiving notices of closure hearings from the Lawrence School Board.
School board members voted 4-3 against closing Woodlawn Elementary with many in the crowd and several board members expressing concerns about children having to cross the bridge over the Kansas River to a new school. The school district said busing would only be provided for students forced to travel more than 2.5 miles.
Meanwhile, Liberty Memorial Middle School looked like it would be repurposed beginning next year, despite several board members and speakers expressing concerns the district didn’t have a firm plan as to what that repurposing would be.
A measure to push that repurposing back a year initially failed 5-2 in the first vote of that night after more than six hours of discussion. But two board members said they didn’t understand the vote and asked to hold the vote again. The measure passed 4-3 the second time saving Liberty Memorial as its currently constituted for now.
Lawrence Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Anthony Lewis proposed the cost-cutting measures in hopes of saving $4.5 million in order to increase teacher salaries.
“We’ve cut, and cut, and cut people before, but we haven’t done a good job of cutting facilities before, and we are at a point where we have no choice,” Lewis said.
“We said going in if it really comes down to closing schools are the only way, we’ll discuss that in the open, but we need the data to back it up. We need to fill just in making our decision, we weren’t given any of that factual information and we weren’t allowed to explore alternative ideas,” said Alicia Erickson, a parent and futures planning committee member.
The majority of the savings will actually come from increasing class size and eliminating 50 teaching positions at middle and high school level. That savings was approved.
More than 100 students and parents chanting “Save Our Schools” rallied before the 6 p.m. meeting. Two hours of public comment began after 3.5 hours of initial discussion with the votes all taking place after midnight Tuesday morning.