LAWRENCE, Kan. — Lawrence Public Schools is once again looking at closing schools and eliminating teaching positions.
The school district says one of the main driving forces behind the discussions is to increase salary and have competitive wages to retain teachers.
Lawrence schools have been facing dwindling enrollment because of COVID-19 according to the district. Fewer students equals less funding.
“What can we do as a community to grapple with the fact we are in a tough situation,” Superintendent Anthony Lewis told a crowd filling the commons of Free State High School Tuesday.
After last year’s staff budget cuts, and rallies to keep schools open, the district hired consultants to come up with a plan to keep from struggling to balance the budget every year.
Now after several months of discussions the district’s Futures Planning Committee has zeroed in on a proposal keeping all sports and activities but closing or repurposing three schools and eliminating teaching positions.
“It’s not a bad school, it’s not a low performing school anything like that. This is a financial discussion. This is how can we take away money from some things to give to those three top priorities the board has charged this committee with,” Julie Boyle, Lawrence communications director said.
The $10 million proposal to raise teacher salaries and balance the budget calls for closing two elementary schools and one middle school and increasing class sizes to 28 middle school students and 30 high school students.
“We want to create a sustainable situation for our school district. There’s no easy answer, no matter what people are going to be frustrated, because it’s not going to stay the same,” Carrie Poe, Co-Chair of the Lawrence Special Education Advocacy Committee, said.
Other ideas for potential savings like 4-day school weeks are still on the table.
“Having conversations about cutting down to 4-days a week, that would be a self-fulfilling prophecy if we are merging schools and increasing staff size. We need to focus on what’s best for the student and do it in an equitable way, but I think we need to look at how to grow revenue grow students vs cut cut cut,” parent David Jordan said.
The committee will deliver final recommendations to the school board February 27.
The district will have another public input session tomorrow at 6 p.m. at Lawrence High School.