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Wichita board discusses bond issue projects, sets calendar

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Friday, Feb. 8, 2013, at 10:11 a.m.
  • Updated Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2013, at 2:53 p.m.

It will be at least a couple more weeks before the Wichita school board talks about how to proceed with 15 unfinished bond issue projects, including a proposed new high school in southeast Wichita.

On Monday the board talked about original goals of the $370 million bond issue, completed projects and an economic picture that could mean big changes moving forward.

“Day-to-day operations, that’s what’s changed,” said superintendent John Allison. “The bond dollars are there for projects.

“But … the ability to operate some of these as we move forward” is the primary challenge, he said. “The economy has had a profound impact, and we’re not immune to that.”

Allison hinted that one change could involve a $10 million technical education high school program that was part of the original bond proposal.

The state changed where and how high school students can take tech ed classes, including at community colleges, and the district has beefed up tech ed programs within its high schools, he said.

So “the days of a separate, independent tech high school – they’re past us,” Allison said.

During his presentation, Allison noted several things already accomplished by the bond issue. Since 2008, the district has:

• Built eight new school buildings – Dodge, Enders, Isely, Mueller, Ortiz and Spaght elementaries; Christa McAuliffe Academy, a K-8; and the new Northeast Magnet High School.

• Added 132 new classrooms and remodeled or renovated 46 others.

• Built 43 storm shelters.

• Upgraded technical education facilities at five high schools (East, Heights, Northeast Magnet, South and West).

• Added physical education and fine arts facilities and renovated auditoriums at most middle schools.

• Built new gymnasiums, swimming pools, auditoriums and outdoor athletic facilities at several high schools.

About two years ago, the board voted to put 67 bond projects on hold as it grappled with losses of about $4.5 million a year in capital outlay money from the state, millions in federal funds for storm shelters and millions more in cuts to per-pupil state aid.

Since then, 52 bond projects were approved for construction or are in the planning stages, but many were scaled back from original plans.

The district posted a detailed list of those changes as well as a list of unfinished projects on its website Monday evening. For school-by-school information, go to bond2008.usd259.org.

Allison will present more information to the board Feb. 25. Board members could discuss specifics – including what to do about Southeast High School – that day or at a special meeting scheduled for March 4.

“There’s not a hard, fast timeline or deadline,” Allison said. “We need to make the right decision with the right information, and that’s what we’re going to do.”

Board member Jeff Davis said, “It’s important for people to understand that no decisions have been made.

“We’re going to have to see what’s best for students and what’s best for the district,” he said.

In other business Monday, the board approved the 2013-14 school calendar. Most children would start classes on Aug. 14.

Because Christmas falls on a Wednesday this year, students’ winter break is a bit longer than usual – Dec. 20 through Jan. 5. Teachers will have inservice days Jan. 2 and 3.

Spring break for students next year will be March 14-23, 2014. The last day of school will be May 22, 2014.

Reach Suzanne Perez Tobias at 316-268-6567 or stobias@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @SuzanneTobias.

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