Page One

Superintendent Lawrence to recommend City of Franklin closure

By David Scharfenberg Daily Planet staff
Tuesday March 19, 2002

Superintendent Michele Lawrence will recommend that the Board of Education close City of Franklin Microsociety Magnet School next year at the board’s Wednesday night meeting. 

Lawrence originally recommended the move, which would save the financially-strapped district an estimated $326,000, in January, but reconsidered in the wake of strong parental opposition. 

In recent weeks, Lawrence suggested that the school might remain open next year during a long-scheduled refurbishing of the Virginia Street building. But, in a memorandum to the school board, included in the standard board packet released several days before each meeting, Lawrence argued that Franklin must close during construction. 

“After considerable analysis and consideration,” Lawrence wrote, “it has been necessary to now put forward the recommendation to close City of Franklin MicroSociety Magnet School.” 

Lawrence, who was out of town on district business Monday, wrote that the future, long-term use of the Franklin building is being studied. She noted that she will provide a recommendation in “late spring.” 

Lawrence and school board members have noted that there are many potential uses for the building, including a new elementary school and district office space. 

Lawrence’s memo recommends that Franklin parents get first choice of schools next year for their children. The memo recommends converting “flex rooms” at schools in the north and central sections of the city into classrooms to accommodate the influx. 

Lawrence also suggests that the system provide displaced Franklin students with bus service to any school in the district’s north and central zones. Busing will not be provided if a student chooses to attend a south zone school. 

Lawrence’s memo includes four reasons for the closure of Franklin: 

low enrollment, making the school expensive to maintain 

few parents have expressed interest in enrolling kindergartners next year, suggesting long-term enrollment problems 

several Franklin teachers may be laid off next year, disrupting the continuity of the specialized program, which is modeled after a small city 

the difficulties of housing students in the building during construction 

School board member Ted Schultz said he is likely to support Lawrence’s proposal at the Wednesday meeting. 

“I think that I’ll be supportive,” said Schultz. “It’s pretty well laid out there. they have very small enrollment.” 

School board president Shirley Issel said she will be interested to hear Franklin parents speak at Wednesday night’s meeting before making a decision, but added that she has not yet received any information that would convince her to abandon her current support for closure. 

School board member John Selawsky said in a Monday interview that he was still unsure how he would vote. He said he had questions about the true savings of the closure, especially given Lawrence’s offer to bus displaced Franklin students to new schools in the district’s central zone. 

Board members Terry Doran and Joaquin Rivera could not be reached Monday, but Rivera has been a vocal proponent of closing the school. 

Parents reached Monday were upset with the proposal. 

“I’m very disappointed that that is her recommendation,” said Karen Ransom, mother of a Franklin third-grader. “It’s going to be extremely disruptive.” 

Ransom said that, when Lawrence announced her reconsideration of the Franklin closure, parents thought they would have a substantial voice in determining the eventual fate of the school. 

“My impression was that we would have some say,” Ransom said. 

Franklin PTA president Carla Campbell, parent of third- and sixth-graders at the school, said the district has handled the whole situation poorly. She said, in the future, the district should inform parents of school closures earlier in the year so they are in a better position to make preparations for the subsequent fall. 

Campbell said she will present the findings of a parental survey on what to do about Franklin at the Wednesday meeting.