LAWRENCE, Kan. — When students in Lawrence go back to school Thursday many will be attending new schools.
The Lawrence School Board decided to cut costs closing a pair of elementary schools at the end of last school year.
Maren Bradley’s kids and hundreds of others walked through an art-filled tunnel to and from school every day at Pinckney Elementary, one of the schools that closed along with Broken Arrow Elementary.
“As you walk through the tunnel it kind of tells the story of the day in the life a student at Pinckney. There are little panthers that you can try to find as you are walking through like this right here,” Bradley pointed out.
The artwork was created in May of 2013 by student artists to help students face an otherwise dark and uncertain journey through that tunnel. Exactly 10 years later Pinckney closed leaving a new batch of students to try to find their way.
Bradley contacted the same student art apprentice program that designed the murals, Van Go.
“With the closing of Pinckney Elementary I think they were looking for a place to take an piece of their existing community and place it in the new environment,” Rick Wright, Van Go art director, said.
Lawrence high schoolers worked together on a pair of buddy benches inspired by the tunnel to Pinckney.
The bench going to Hillcrest has the familiar hidden paw prints to find, the bench going to Deerfield has the antlers of a deer wrapping around a Panther.
“As beautiful as it is, it had a job to do and the job was to create a welcoming space where students can encounter each other talk interact hopefully forge some new friendships. It’s always a difficult thing to do at a new school and this bench will be placed at a time when students from different communities are coming together,” Wright said.
Though the benches will go to different schools, only when they are placed together can you see the central figure, Pinckney Elementary.
“The artists worked together and they really captured the essence of those tunnel murals I think it will be a really nice reminder and maybe feel a little bit more like home,” Bradley said.
Lawrence School Board members who approved the school’s closures said money saved would be passed on to teachers to retain their services and attract qualified individuals.