April 13, 2014

Maize school board to explore reconfiguring some schools

Before Maize school district leaders decide whether to pursue a new bond issue or change the way students are assigned to schools, they want to know whether current buildings could be used more efficiently.

Before Maize school district leaders decide whether to pursue a new bond issue or change the way students are assigned to schools, they want to know whether current buildings could be used more efficiently.

District architects on Monday will present options for reconfiguring some schools to make room for an early childhood center, technical education classrooms and a storm shelter at Maize High School, officials said.

“I think we’re going to decide how to place kids (in schools) and then design facilities around it,” said Maize superintendent Doug Powers.

The Maize school board is considering several options for student placement, including drawing attendance boundaries, establishing feeder patterns or keeping the district’s current preference-card system.

Unlike most school districts, Maize has no geographical attendance boundaries that determine where a child goes to school. Instead, families with students in fifth and eighth grades submit preference cards indicating which middle or high school they would like their children to attend.

At Monday’s school board meeting, architects with Schaefer Johnson Cox Frey are expected to present several possible scenarios, Powers said. They include:

• Building a new, large middle school, keeping Maize South Middle and converting Maize Middle into an early childhood center, with additional space available for some other purpose.
• Building a new, small middle school, keeping Maize Middle and reducing enrollment at Maize South, turning the sixth-grade pod into an early childhood center.
• Converting one wing – about four classrooms – of Maize South Elementary into an early childhood center and adding additional early childhood classrooms.
• Converting a wing of Maize High School into career and technical education classrooms, attaching additional classrooms and hardening the space to serve as a storm shelter. The plan also would call for building another smaller shelter at the opposite end of the school – possibly a lobby and hospitality room.

Maize, a district of about 7,000, has two high schools, an alternative high school, two middle schools and five elementary schools, one of which houses the Early Childhood Center. Nearly all Maize students – about 86 percent – live in west Wichita.

Along with student placement options, Maize board members also are considering a possible bond issue for nearly $85 million in school projects, including a new middle school, early childhood center, technical education classrooms and athletic improvements.

The board also plans to commission a scientific survey to gauge preferences on student placement, Powers said. Unlike a telephone survey of Maize voters conducted last year by Patron Insight, the new survey would target households with children attending Maize schools, he said.

A 40-member community task force was formed last year to look at options for student placement after a group of Maize parents protested the way the district assigns students to schools. Powers said the board hopes to decide before July whether to establish a new placement system.

If it decides to draw geographic boundaries, he said, the district likely would hire a consulting firm such as RSP Associates, an Olathe-based company hired by the Wichita district to redraw attendance boundaries in 2012. Such firms analyze housing patterns, enrollment, socioeconomic data and school capacities, create boundary proposals and gather public input.

“Could we draw boundaries on our own? Sure, and I think we’d probably do a good job,” Powers said. “But if we have somebody like that to help with the data piece and the projections we’re going to end up with much better boundaries that are more stable and probably longer lasting.”

The Maize board meets at 7 p.m. Monday at the Educational Support Center, 905 W. Central in Maize. On April 28, the board is planning to hold a public meeting for continued discussion about student placement and facilities.

“It’s a work in progress, and the board has some big decisions,” Powers said. “I think they’re being very wise and taking their time and looking at all aspects that they can look at to make the very best decision available.”

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