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Save Southeast group makes a final plea to school board before Monday’s vote

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Thursday, June 20, 2013, at 8:31 p.m.
  • Updated Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2013, at 2:53 p.m.

Correction: A previous version of this story misidentified NAACP chapter youth advisor Kyron Cox.

Members of the Save Southeast organization on Thursday made one last plea for school board officials to consider the impact of moving Southeast High School.

About 20 people, including Rep. Jim Ward, Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau and representatives from the NAACP’s local chapter, called on the board to evaluate the effects of the decision.

“I don’t think the school board’s the bad guy here,” Ward said during the gathering at Maya Angelou Northeast Branch Library. “They got stuck with a bad hand. That doesn’t excuse that they’re handling this difficult situation badly.”

Many of the people at the meeting made similar statements, saying that moving the school would not only put unnecessary burden on the students, but would also be demoralizing for the community.

“Now that we’re an established neighborhood, now they want to close the school, and that makes absolutely no sense at all,” said Dave Robbins, president of the Fabrique Neighborhood Association just east of Southeast High. “There’s no justification for any reason, from our neighborhood standpoint, to go through this big change.”

Kyron Cox, the local NAACP chapter’s youth advisor, said Southeast, at its current location at Lincoln and Edgemoor, is invaluable to the neighborhood surrounding it.

“They aren’t just school buildings,” he said. “They bring vitality to the community.”

The district has said it would consider moving administrative offices to the building, and Wichita Area Technical College has expressed interest in the building as well. However, some said that does not outweigh the downfalls of relocating.

“That’s not the answer,” said Janice Bradley, of Wichita’s Peace and Social Justice Center. “There’s plenty of real estate in Wichita for WATC or the school board to have their administrative offices. Leave Southeast as a high school; invest in the inner-city communities.”

School board president Lynn Rogers said officials are trying to make a decision not just for the present but for years to come.

“Everyone is entitled to their opinion,” Rogers said. “Democracy can be messy at times.”

He said he has heard almost equal support for all three options the board is considering.

“There is emotion on both sides,” Rogers said. “We want to do what’s best for kids.”

For the past few months, Wichita school board members have proposed decommissioning Southeast in favor of building a new high school on the southwest corner of 127th Street East and Pawnee.

The project will be funded by money from the 2008 school bond issue. Originally the proposal called for renovations at Southeast High School, in addition to a smaller 800-student school at 127th and Pawnee, but officials have since ruled out that plan, saying cuts in state funding have limited their ability to fund both schools.

According to data collected by RSP and Associates, a consulting firm hired by the district to study housing and enrollment patterns, 2,138 students lived in Southeast boundaries last year, but only 1,476 attended Southeast.

“I think the statement it would make by the Board of Education to reinvest and reinvigorate that school would send a welcome mat, that kids would take a second look at Southeast High School,” Ward said.

The school board will have its final vote on the situation on Monday.

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