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Lawrence board begins school bond issue talks

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) -- Lawrence school officials are considering asking voters to approve a new bond issue next year to fund upgrades at the city's elementary schools.

The Lawrence Journal-World reported Tuesday (http://bit.ly/K8z4Wi ) that the board agreed at a meeting a day earlier to begin developing the plan. It could include adding space to remove portable classrooms and upgrade kitchens at the schools. Improving traffic patterns at the schools is another possible target of the bond issue.

"These schools have been neglected for, in some cases, over a decade," board member Rick Ingram said. "(It's exciting) not only to sort of fix the problems that we've let pile up but also to think about building something for the future."

Board members and district administrators said the next step would be to search for an architectural firm to develop the project scope. Lawrence has an enrollment of approximately 11,000 students.

Superintendent Rick Doll said the project would initially focus on east and central elementary schools. Then district would look at improving energy efficiency at facilities and projects for technology and career and technical education programs.

The board decided in April not to consolidate any of the elementary schools in eastern or central Lawrence.

The district is nearing the end of a $54 million bond issue passed in 2005 to upgrade secondary schools in Lawrence. No price tag was set for the project, but district officials were mindful of the impact on Lawrence residents and businesses.

"The real goal is to improve our facilities and to do that in a no-tax-increase environment," Doll said.

A preliminary timeline calls for completing planning on the bond issue and setting an election date this fall. Lawrence voters will go to the polls April 9, 2013, to elect city commission and school board candidates. Board members said having elections on the bond issue and new members could draw "single-issue" candidates to file for office.

"Do we really want this to be a centerpiece issue of a board election? It will be if we do that," said board member Shannon Kimball, whose current term runs through 2015.