Archive for Thursday, May 12, 2005

Boundary idea gets icy response

Lansing school officials ‘not interested’ in giving up areas within Leavenworth city limits, board officer says

May 12, 2005

Lansing school district officials may listen patiently to Leavenworth School Board about changing the boundaries of the Leavenworth and Lansing school districts, but initial reactions from Lansing are not promising that a change would occur.

A letter earlier this year from the Leavenworth City Commission encouraged the Leavenworth school district to look into changing its boundaries by taking in all of the areas of the city. Lansing school district boundaries currently reach into the Leavenworth city limits.

"In my opinion, we would listen, but we're not interested at all," said Brian Bode, vice president of the Lansing School Board.

Such a change would cost the Lansing district hundreds of thousands of dollars in both lost state aid and property tax revenue.

Leavenworth City Commissioner Brian Gritt-mann said the letter expressed concerns about new developments being built between Eisenhower and Muncie roads, which are within Leavenworth city limits but are in the Lansing district. Grittmann said his concern was that Leavenworth was investing in Eisenhower Road improvements and extending sewer lines into the new development areas, but the children who moved into that area would go to Lansing schools.

Grittmann said he had nothing against Lansing - "they're the best neighbors" - but said he thought city and school district boundaries should be the same.

"If you live in Leavenworth, your children ought to be able to go to Leavenworth school district," he said.

The main reasons behind the push to redraw the lines, Grittmann said, were that some families identify more with their schools than with their cities and that Leavenworth school district loses out on a large tax base from the new developments.

He said he wondered whether Lansing schools would be able to handle the increase in students when hundreds of new families move into the developments. Traffic was another of his concerns. He said he didn't know why students living in Leavenworth should drive or be bused to Lansing schools when there were "adequate and very good schools right next to them."

The current school district boundary between Leavenworth and Lansing is Muncie Road. Grittmann said the boundary was determined long before the cities had grown and should be changed.

"It shouldn't be a line drawn up arbitrarily that's stuck forever," he said.

Leavenworth School Board member Shay Baker said Leavenworth Schools Superintendent Clay Guthmiller was looking into the situation but that the board had taken no action yet.

Baker said she was optimistic about the results of potential talks with Lansing school district.

"I think talks would go well and be relatively easy," she said. "I think we all want the best for our city, school district and children."

Guthmiller was in Topeka on Wednesday and could not be reached for comment.

Lansing Schools Superintendent Randal Bagby said his board indicated to him in conversations that it would be willing to discuss the matter with the Leavenworth School Board but that its approval of the change wasn't likely.

He noted that for a change to occur, Leavenworth would need approval from both the Lansing School Board and the State Board of Education. However, he said the state board probably would not agree to the boundary change.

"I don't believe they would be inclined to because it's likely that Lansing would not agree," Bagby said.

Bagby said he didn't know of any benefits for Lansing school district from such a change, and he said that Leavenworth school district did not have statutory authority to offer compensation for the Lansing district's lost state aid and tax base.

Bode said he didn't think the board would be willing to compromise the boundary lines because of the loss in students and the tax base.

"We would be crazy to agree to that," Bode said. "We have nothing to gain."

Any talks between the boards would happen at special meetings, not regular board meetings, Bagby said.

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