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Don Landis: Keep promise and save Southeast High

  • Published Sunday, June 23, 2013, at 12 a.m.

The coalition to Save Southeast has been asking questions that still are not answered. At stake is the decision to renovate Wichita Southeast High School or to close it and bus 1,600 kids to a $54 million school to be built at 127th Street East and Pawnee.

District arguments for closing Southeast have floated between shifting reasons.

Board members have said that Southeast is “landlocked.” We asked: If Southeast was not landlocked in 2008, what makes it landlocked now?

We informed the school board that there have been 7 acres for sale adjacent to Southeast. Why didn’t administration officials tell the board about options or talk to nearby property owners until mid-May?

The district insists it is cheaper to build a $54 million school than to upgrade Southeast and operate two schools. But the administration still has not produced the costs to bus 1,600 kids nearly 6 miles. Nor has it counted the road-construction costs that will be passed on to the taxpayer.

Equity is the third reason given to close Southeast. But the board is confusing a new building with a quality education. Equity is more than giving every kid a spanking-new school.

How is it equitable to bus low-income city kids to the suburbs? These families chose to live near Southeast so their kids could walk to school. The district has offered to run an activity bus. How many buses will run, and at what cost? Will kids have the same opportunities for after-school help, sports or events?

Kids of lower-income status have fewer transportation options. Some have younger siblings they walk with and look after while parents are still working. In 2008, the district used the selling point that kids do best with schools in their own neighborhoods. Why should minorities and low-income families bear the burden of busing again?

Option A-2 is a win-win solution, providing practice fields, a new swimming complex and auditorium, and it allows Southeast to stay in the neighborhood. It saves $35 million.

The board should deliver on a second high school plan when suburban households finally justify a new school.

Why should you care? Every Wichitan should care about promises made on unsecured funding. Shouldn’t every taxpayer care? Aren’t voters responsible for keeping our elected officials accountable?

Every person who wants responsible government should call the school board. Tell board members to find a way to keep their promises. Board members’ phone numbers are posted at www.SaveSoutheast.com so we can make our opinions known.

Don Landis is spokesman for the coalition to Save Southeast.

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