Board adopts calendar for Lawson

John Richmeier
The Leavenworth Times

The Leavenworth Board of Education has approved an academic calendar for the new Earl Lawson Early Education Center that will differ from the calendar used by other schools in the district.

Board members approved the calendar when they met Monday by a vote of 5-2. Board members John Goodman and Alisa Murphy voted against the motion.

The Earl Lawson Early Education Center is scheduled to open for the 2021-2022 school year. The building will house classes for all of the school district’s prekindergarten and kindergarten students. The building previously served as an elementary school. But it is being converted in to an early education center as a result of a $36.7 million bond issue that was approved by voters in 2018.

The calendar that was adopted for Lawson will not increase the number of school days for prekindergarten and kindergarten students. But the students will have additional days off during the school year. And the academic year for Lawson students will extend through June instead of ending in May. This would shorten the summer break by about a month.

School officials have argued the schedule will help reduce learning loss students may experience as they transition from kindergarten to the first grade.

Board members were briefed on the Lawson calendar last month but did not vote on it at that time.

“We’re not proposing a year-round school,” Superintendent Mike Roth said during Monday’s meeting. “We’re proposing an alternative calendar.”

Board Vice President Dannielle Wells supports the Lawson calendar. But she said it does not make sense for Lawson to have a schedule that is different than the other schools in the district.

“It’s my hope the whole district goes to Lawson’s schedule,” she said.

Roth said he believes the model has the potential to change a lot of what school officials do in education.

“To me, this is exciting,” he said.

Roth suggested that starting with the calendar at Lawson may make it easier to transition other grade levels to the calendar in the future.

He said school staff members will need to be supportive of the idea. He acknowledged that not all of the teachers who were slated to go the new Lawson school have been on board with the change.

“We’ve had our struggles with our own staff,” he said.

Goodman suggested the Lawson calendar could interfere with some families’ plans for summer vacations.

He also suggested that implementing the calendar for older grade levels could interfere with other summer activities such as sports.

Board President Doug Darling said he has reservations about the Lawson calendar.

“We are trying to do what is best for the kids,” he said.

Darling said he was voting in favor of the calendar because voters in the school district will have the opportunity to express their approval or disapproval in November’s school board election.

Darling expressed concern about parents who have students in multiple schools in the district being able to drop off each child on time.

Roth said this issue is not impacted by the calendar.

In other business

The Leavenworth Board of Education:

• Adopted a resolution to approve the refunding, or refinancing, of $21.8 million of bonds. Beth Mattox, chief financial officer for the district, said the measure should save the district about $4.46 million.

• Voted to name a baseball field after board member Mike Carney. The field is located in a new baseball and softball complex.

• Approved the renewal of contracts for various principals and assistant principals. The contract renewals were approved when board members voted on a staffing report, which lists various personnel changes in the school district.

The staffing report lists the resignations of two principals, Scott Kessler at Anthony Elementary School and April Lutz at the Nettie Hartnett Education Center. Their resignations will be effective June 4.