TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - In what they called a difficult decision, USD 501 board of education members voted unanimously Thursday night to close three elementary schools at the end of the year.
The vote follows a year and a half of facility planning committee work, a series of four public hearings on the matter at the four schools set to close, and shutters them in favor of a new plan transferring them to other schools. Signature programs will be available to more students, as they are for students of Topeka's magnet schools now.
The plan is to close Quinton Heights, Lundgren and Linn Elementary schools at the end of this school year. School officials say the move will save $1.5 million. Avondale East would close at the end of next school year.
The four schools each have fewer than 200 students. Rev. Ben Scott expressed concerns that Eastside schools were being targeted on the closings list, but the problem was those schools were at the top of the list for declining enrollments in the Topeka district.
USD 501 faces a more than $4.4 million budget deficit next year. District officials say reductions in state aid are to blame.
Board members called the closure plan "only a first step" in helping pull the district of a "dire funding situation."
They're confident the realignment including the closings will provide better, more efficient programs, better education for Topeka students, and an improved use of the empty buildings. Board President Patrick Woods says schools in the eastern half of the city could be in line for an upgrade toward the end of the process.
Starting Monday, May 9th, parents have the opportunity to request a transfer for any of their children who attend the schools which are closing this month. The district would not required to approve all of them.
Dr. Kevin Singer is outlining the changes in letters being sent out today to everyone in the 501 District. Parents will be receiving information to help them through the process, from now through end of May. You can read the full plan approved Thursday night, at www.TopekaPublicSchools.net.