LAWRENCE, Kan. — Parents, students, and some teachers rallied outside the Lawrence School District headquarters Monday afternoon. 

The group, “Save Our Schools,” hopes the Board of Education does not close schools to make up a $7 million budget gap.

The possible closures weren’t on the Board’s agenda for its meeting Monday night, but several parents spoke out against closures.

Roughly 100 people attended the rally before the meeting, holding signs for their individual schools.

“I’m out here because we love our neighborhood school. We bought our house in our neighborhood to go to that school,” said Kaelyn McCall, whose first grader attends Broken Arrow Elementary.

Broken Arrow has been identified as a school to possible close as it needs the most improvements and fits the size criteria.

Superintendent Dr. Anthony Lewis says the budget shortfall is due to declining enrollment. He says parents’ homeschooling kids due to COVID-19 has only made that worse.

“Is there a way to do it without closing schools?” FOX4’s Russell Colburn asked Lewis.

“It depends on the priorities,” Lewis said. “We have about $3.5 Million in budget deficits that we have to balance the budget, statutorily.”

Lewis says another roughly three-million-dollars would go to raising staff pay, which he says is needed, and contingency reserves.

“We believe there are ways to find solutions to the budget deficit that do not involve school closures nor touching teacher or classified raises, because we believe those are absolutely necessary,” said Alicia Erickson, who helped organize the rally.

Erickson asked the board if federal COVID-19 money could be used, but Lewis says Douglas County has already taken advantage, and those funds are a one-time thing.

“We will go ahead and apply just to see if they’ll give us those funds,” Lewis said. “Again, we’re looking at every single avenue to address this budget shortfall.”

Lewis said that effort will continue in upcoming public hearings. He said it’s looking like February for the community to be able to weigh-in more before a vote that could come as soon as April.