The best place for the Wichita district's new south elementary school will be the current site of Lewis Open Magnet Elementary School, district officials said Thursday.
Administrators will ask school board members Monday to combine the new neighborhood school and Lewis in the same new building at 3030 S. Osage, near 31st Street South and Seneca. The current Lewis building would be torn down after the new school opens.
In the $370 million bond plan voters approved in November 2008, Lewis was slated for a $1.25 million classroom addition and renovation, and a $10 million new elementary school in the south part of the district was to be built separately.
School leaders said lack of available land and preliminary boundary studies led them to consider expanding the current school site.
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"It's north of (Interstate) 235, and it just has a number of things going for us to solve overcrowding at Kelly and Woodman" elementary schools, said Martin Libhart, chief operations officer for the district.
The district considered building the new elementary school next to the renovated Lewis building on the 9-acre piece of property, Libhart said.
"But staff and parents were concerned they would end up with the same old building," he said.
Building the new neighborhood school and magnet school together will save money because the district won't need to purchase land, and the schools will share a library, cafeteria and storm shelter, Libhart said.
The new combination school project should cost roughly $11.2 million — about the same if the schools were kept at separate sites.
"The saving long-term is going to be the energy savings," Libhart said.
Both schools will provide space for the same number of students as in the original bond plan. Lewis will keep 200 students, who must apply to the magnet program, and the new elementary will hold about 450 students who live nearby.
Lewis students will remain in the current building as the new schools are under construction. They might lose some playground space during that time.
The new schools' building is scheduled to open in fall 2012.
Wichita school leaders also said the classroom addition to Clark Elementary School, 650 S. Apache, should be under way next month and finished in June 2010. The school is near Lincoln and Woodlawn.
The board plans to vote Monday on whether to award the Clark construction contract to Sauerwein Construction Co. The company bid $871,500 for the project, which administrators said is $158,000 below the project's budget.
Nine other companies bid, all at higher prices than Sauerwein, according to district records.
The number of construction companies interested in and applying for projects has increased during the recession, Libhart said.
"We're looking at project proposals that are much more competitive, tighter, better," he said.
Several more classroom additions will be starting soon as the district tries to take advantage of competitive construction prices, Libhart said.
And reductions in state aid won't slow down the bond project building, even if there isn't enough money to hire more teachers to fill them up, he said. Bond money can be used only on construction projects, and teachers are paid out of the operating budget, which is most affected by state cuts.
"It's still better to be using classrooms that are more energy-efficient than old ones," Libhart said. "We're hopeful as the economy recovers, we can move forward with staff plans."