Wichita school district to tackle bond issue to-do list

02/09/2013 4:15 PM

08/06/2014 12:05 AM

More than two years after putting dozens of school improvements on hold, Wichita district leaders will talk Monday about how to attack what’s left on their bond issue to-do list.

Superintendent John Allison will update board members on the 2008 bond issue “and how school bond projects relate to the district’s overall budget,” according to the board agenda.

Nearly 20 bond projects, including a proposed $38 million high school in southeast Wichita and a $10 million technical education magnet program, are still on hold.

The board meets at 6 p.m. Monday at the North High School lecture hall, 1437 Rochester.

Allison recently said the district could build a new high school or expand Southeast High, as proposed in the 2008 bond issue, but probably not both.

Some local lawmakers and residents plan to fight any plan to close Southeast, at Lincoln and Edgemoor, and move its students to a new high school on land the district owns at 127th Street East and Pawnee.

In an interview with The Eagle editorial board last week, District 3 City Council member James Clendenin said he is just starting to collect information about possible plans for Southeast High, but that neighborhood residents don’t want it to close.

“It’s another empty building, this time a school,” said Clendenin, who is running for re-election. “And they’re talking about moving it way out east. No one in the neighborhood lives there.

“I’d like for the school district to keep its commitment to Southeast.”

School board member Barbara Fuller, whose district includes Southeast High, said “nothing’s a done deal” and that the board has to weigh neighborhood concerns with those of the district as a whole.

“We need the information. We need a public discussion,” Fuller said. “We’re a large school district, and every decision we make does have an impact.

“I want to be really reflective on this because I know whatever decision that is made, it will impact Wichita for numerous years.”

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 and millions more in federal funds for storm shelters.

Since then, the district opened five new schools, closed five old ones and redrew attendance boundaries. About 50 of the on-hold bond projects were approved for construction or are in the planning stages, but many were scaled back from original plans.

Projects still on hold include a new auditorium and practice gym at Robinson Middle School that are substantially more expensive than renovations proposed in the 2008 bond plan.

Board members unanimously approved the new concept, expected to cost about $4.4 million, in August 2011, when officials said the bond issue was about $9 million under budget. Recently, though, bond managers said the district could lose more than $13 million in federal funds for school storm shelters, a key part of the bond plan.

Contributing: Bill Wilson of The Eagle

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