LAWRENCE, Kan. — The Lawrence Board of Education wasn't set to talk about possible school closures during their meeting Monday, but hundreds of people came out to ask the board to find another way to save money without shutting down their schools.
It's a conversation that's taken parents of some students in Lawrence Public Schools by storm who chanted "Save our schools" outside district headquarters.
Leaders are considering closing a handful of elementary and middle schools as a way to close a budget gap of more than $3 million.
Administrators point out their funding issues are tied to a declining enrollment that's exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We all love our neighborhood schools, and we just want to stay where we're at," Jessica Weiner, a parent whose daughter attends Woodlawn Elementary said. "We just want to make sure that can happen, not just for the students, but the wonderful faculty."
Carol Allen is a paraprofessional at New York Elementary, one of the schools possibly on the chopping block. Allen has children in LPS and attended the protest Monday evening.
"As a staff member, it's my job, it's my livelihood. It's the only school I've ever worked in," Allen said. "And I think it'd be very hard to restart with all the students who I know nothing about."
Parents worry how their kids will adjust to the closures if they happen.
"They're going to have to either walk or find other means of transportation," Darrell Frank, a parent said. "So, then it becomes a safety issue for the children, especially those children that are you know, walking home to and from school."
Parents would like the district to ask Douglas County for federal stimulus money but superintendent Dr. Anthony Lewis said they've made such requests in the past and it may not be feasible this time.
"Those are one-time funds and so it's a band-aid," Lewis said before Monday's meeting. "We made it back at the same table next year of having the some of the conversations."
During public comment, families begged the school board to keep their schools open
The board of education didn't take any action taken Monday evening. The next time they meet in February, board members may choose a proposal that would commence another set of public hearings.
"Know that we are doing all we can to make these decisions with students in mind," Lewis said. "Now, will there be loss in some of these decisions, absolutely. They will be lost. But we want to make these decisions with the minimum amount of interruption."
Eventually, a final vote is expected to come down in April.
The proposals that the board is considering can be viewed by clicking on this link.
Parent have also started a "Save Our Schools" website.