A year after Wichita school leaders voted to build a new Southeast High School at 127th Street East and Pawnee, the future home of the Golden Buffaloes remains a vacant, windswept pasture.
But officials say the new school – the flagship project of the 2008 bond issue – is on track to open as planned in the fall of 2016.
“Things are moving through as we would expect them to move through,” said Wendy Johnson, spokeswoman for the Wichita district. “We are looking forward to the dirt starting to turn sometime later this summer.”
Kenton Cox of Schaefer Johnson Cox Frey Architects, the firm designing the new Southeast High, said schematic designs for the school are complete. Architects and school officials now are working on developing those designs.
Bids for earth work should go out later this summer, Cox said, and crews will begin to ready the site for construction in the fall.
“I’d say we’re a little behind where I would have liked to have been,” Cox said. “The development of the design and the programming has taken a little longer than we had hoped to.
“I think there was probably more hope that we could just site-adapt the Northeast (Magnet High School) building, but it’s so much different. The programming needs are different, and it’s so much bigger.”
The school is being modeled on Northeast Magnet, near 53rd Street North and Rock Road in Bel Aire, but will be more than twice the size.
Northeast Magnet, which opened in 2013, was designed for 800 students. The new Southeast will hold 1,800 to 2,000 students and will feature a district stadium and track, baseball and softball diamonds, tennis courts, practice fields and other athletic amenities.
“It’s similar (to Northeast) but it’s quite a bit different, actually, when you get inside of it,” Cox said.
It’s still unclear when board members or the public will get a look at floor plans or artist renderings of the new Southeast High. As they did with Northeast Magnet, bond managers will bid the earth work first, and separately from the main project.
“That will allow us to take advantage of time and get some of those critical first steps done before any potential winter weather,” Johnson said. “It will unfold very similar to Northeast, where we had plenty of conversation about what was going to happen in the building, what some of the functions and features were.”
Much of the discussion has focused on career and technical education programs.
“We’re looking forward a little later this summer to being able to talk about the technical education piece of all of this and how that fits in with our grand plan to provide 21st-century opportunities to students,” Johnson said.
After the new school opens, the district plans to consolidate many of its downtown offices at the current Southeast High, 903 S. Edgemoor. Officials have begun talks with Wichita Area Technical College to locate some of that agency’s programs at the current Southeast.
The district made about $1.3 million worth of improvements to Southeast High, including auditorium renovations, a new track and all-weather turf for its practice field, before leaders voted to build a new school. Over the next two years, while the new school is being built, the old one at Lincoln and Edgemoor will not be ignored, Johnson said.
“Any maintenance issues … will continue to be addressed,” Johnson said. “There is absolutely no intention of letting the building fall into any sort of disrepair.
“It’s an important property for us, and certainly we would never put staff or students in a position where they weren’t in an adequate and appropriate building.”
Any plans to renovate the old building for offices or technical college classrooms are on hold until the new Southeast High is well underway, she added.
“That’s what’s been receiving full attention right now. That’s the priority,” she said. “We’ve got to get construction started because the plan at this point is still to open in August of 2016, so two years from this fall.”
Lori Doyle, the new principal of Southeast High, was involved in design discussions for the new school along with former principal Leroy Parks, who is moving to the Chester I. Lewis Academic Learning Academy, Johnson said.
“Over the past year, one of the questions we got a lot was, ‘When are you going to start? What’s the plan? What’s the schedule? We’re excited, we want to know,’ ” Johnson said.
“So we want to … shout out to the Southeast community and to all of our district to let people know that yes, absolutely, things are moving.”