Save Our Schools plans walks to show longer paths students would face if schools close

Community group’s planned walks are the next in a string of protests in response to pondered school closures


Kenna McNally

A young protestor at Save Our School 497’s demonstration outside the district offices on Monday, January 24th, stands holding a sign that reads, “I [love] NYE.”

By Jack Ritter, Editor-in-Training

Save Our Schools, a group recently reinvigorated by the potential closure of several Lawrence schools, aims to spread awareness of the walking routes students could face if proposed closures are approved.

The group has organized walks, according to a press release, to show paths that could traverse bridges, busy intersections and other challenging variables students would encounter on a longer walk to school.

“The walks are designed to help community members and educators experience what elementary students would encounter during their walk to school, which could be up to 2.5 miles,” the release states.

In addition to spreading awareness, the group plans to capture data about what students would encounter in walking to school. 

“The groups will also collect data along their routes — including the number of crosswalks, estimated number of cars, intensity of traffic, weather conditions and total time of the commute,” the release states.

Save Our Schools organizers said some of the events could possibly be impacted by the winter storm expected to hit tomorrow night.

I believe they will walk unless school is canceled. The events in the mornings are for adults and not children,” press contact Alicia Erickson said in an email. “The point regarding the poor weather is that if the district expects young children to brave the dangerous weather conditions, the adults should walk in their shoes. I will update if it is canceled but school is not, but if you see school cancellations please assume that morning’s walk is off.”

Save Our Schools has scheduled four walks, and details are below. 

  • Monday, Jan. 31, 3:30 p.m.: Schwegler Elementary to Broken Arrow Elementary
  • Wednesday, Feb. 2, 7 a.m.: Liberty Memorial Central Middle School to Woodlawn Elementary
  • Thursday, Feb. 3, 7 a.m.: Liberty Memorial Central Middle School to Woodlawn Elementary
  • Friday, Feb. 4, 7 a.m.: Liberty Memorial Central Middle School to Woodlawn Elementary

The district has discussed multiple scenarios of school closures, and the schools proposed are Broken Arrow, Woodlawn, Pinckney, New York, Hillcrest and Liberty Memorial Central. 

Earlier this month, Save Our Schools organized a protest at a board meeting in an attempt to keep at-risk schools open. USD 497 superintendent Dr. Anthony Lews said that the turnout in support of the schools was to be expected.

“I was telling our Superintendent Advisory Council earlier today that I would be alarmed if I didn’t see anyone out there,” he said in an interview before the meeting. “This is a testament to the love of our community schools, and I’ve shared that it’s not about the building itself — the roof, the walls, the halls — it’s about the staff, the students and family that make up that community.”

Save Our Schools has stressed the importance of community schools and says their loss would be especially harmful to current families and the East Lawrence community.

On their website,, Save Our Schools has called on board members to commit to voting against school closures and says it has secured three guarantees from the seven board members.

“My commitment is to make decisions that prioritize the voices in our community,” Emerson, one of two new school board members, said on the subject in an email with The Budget. “To make decisions that make sense for families with limited resources while supporting staff. Finally, my commitment is to follow the research that indicates that the direction forward is for the overall good of our district. There is still much time left in the process and scenarios to emerge or to come off the table prior to a final vote.”