LPS to shut down Douglass, Howell Elementary schools

LAWTON, Okla. – Lawton Public Schools will shut down two elementary schools at the end of this school year and Douglass and Howell are the schools on the chopping block.

LPS officials say they are facing the toughest school year yet because of the economy.  They say they will have about $5 million in funding cuts.  Officials say they have a million dollar increase in costs due to raises and other obligations each year, so they have to trim about $6 million out of next years budget.

Howell and Douglass have two of the lowest enrollments each, at about 180 students when some Lawton Elementary Schools have over 500 students.  They are also close to other schools that they say students can easily be switched too. LPS Superintendent Barry Beauchamp says these school closings are just the beginning.

"The whole reason is economics, but in the long run we feel we can better serve our children by having them in not quite so small units where we can get better utilization of our resources.  We need for schools to really be at about 240 to 400 range in order for us to have appropriate staffing, have appropriate equipment without it being excessive in costs," said Beauchamp.

The students will be moved around with a savings of about $1.5 million. Beauchamp says every employee at those two schools will still have a job, just at another LPS location.  But the problem is there is still another $4.5 million that needs to be cut and Beauchamp says they will try to do it without layoffs. But...

"That is a lot and I don't know that will be able to come to fruition.  But that's our hope that at least the vast majority of it can be done through attrition rather than layoffs."

Beauchamp says administrators and staff at Shoemaker will not be off limits either.

"There will be reductions in personnel up here.  You're contractually bound in some areas on salaries with the exception of mine and that one will be reduced."

As for the roughly 360 kids at the 2 schools, Howell students will be moved to Wilson, Adams and Cleveland.  Douglass kids will be moved to Washington and Pat Henry.  And the special needs kids there will all be moved to another school.

Howell Elementary School building will be sold once it is empty.  However, Douglass will become the new professional development center.  The current PDC is tucked away in a neighborhood in northwest Lawton.  That building will also go up for sale.  But officials say the buildings likely will not sell for more than $300,000 each.

Officials say there is no denying there will be much larger class sizes next year and fewer teachers.  They also predict that Country Club Heights will close at the end of next year.  And with all of this, we wanted to tell you that the superintendent says he recommends the school board not give his five-percent pay raise this year and instead, a $12,000 pay cut for the second year in a row.