Wednesday is the last day of school for more than 50,000 students in Wichita public schools, the state’s largest district.
As the final bell rings, here are 10 things to know:
1. Superintendent John Allison will leave the district next month to become superintendent of schools in Olathe. A farewell reception is scheduled for 4 to 6 p.m. Thursday at North High School, 1427 N. Rochester.
Allison served eight years in the district’s top post. Alicia Thompson, currently assistant superintendent of elementary schools, was appointed to replace Allison and will take over July 1.
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2. Robinson Middle School this month celebrated the opening of its new auditorium, practice gym and storm shelter, marking the final project of a $370 million bond issue voters approved in 2008.
The bond issue financed the construction of 60 new tornado safe rooms, making Wichita the first large district in the country to have a safe room in every school.
3. Over the summer, Wichita will move its downtown administration offices to the former Southeast High School at Lincoln and Edgemoor.
School board members voted more than two years ago to sell the headquarters building, 201 N. Water, to developer David Burk, who plans to turn the building into loft apartments. Converting the former Southeast High into administrative offices cost about $3.3 million.
4. Lazy summer days often translate into academic deficiencies, which is why many educators refer to these next few months as the summer “brain drain.”
One way to keep kids reading and learning is to check out the Wichita public library’s free summer reading programs, which launch Thursday. Through the programs, which run through July 28, kids and teens can win prizes for tracking the number of days they read at least 20 minutes.
Register online or in person at any Wichita library branch beginning Thursday.
5. Four seats on the Wichita school board are up for grabs in an election Nov. 7. Two board members – Lynn Rogers and Joy Eakins – have declared that they don’t plan to seek re-election. Betty Arnold and Mike Rodee have filed to run again.
Arnold, who is seeking her third full term, will have an opponent for the first time in her re-election bid. So far three people have filed to run in Eakins’ District 2, which covers much of east Wichita: Julie Headrick, Trish Hileman and Debra Washington.
Ron Rosales, a former Wichita middle school teacher, has filed for the District 6 seat, which Rogers has held for 16 years. The filing deadline is June 1.
6. Education funding continues to be an issue to watch this spring and summer.
Wichita district officials expect more than $8 million in projected cost increases for fuel, utilities, software and other items, which could translate into budget cuts. The board is expected to approve a final version of its 2017-18 budget in August.
7. District leaders may consider changing the start and end times of the school day in an effort to dismiss elementary school students earlier next year.
As part of a $3 million budget cut, Wichita added 30 minutes to each school day and trimmed 15 days from the academic calendar. Many have said the transition has been more challenging than expected, particularly for young children and their families.
Allison said he and Thompson, the new superintendent, will present a recommendation on start times to board members in June.
8. The district is looking to sell several vacant school buildings and about 17 acres of land near Jackson Elementary at 29th and Woodlawn.
Earlier this month board members approved a contract for the first of those properties, the former Metro-Meridian Alternative High School at Maple and Meridian. Erik and Bree Maybee have not offered many details about what they’ll do with the school, but said they plan to redevelop it as a residential property.
9. More than a dozen Wichita schools will have new principals this fall, after the district announced leadership changes for the 2017-18 school year.
Changes to downtown administration include a new assistant superintendent of elementary schools, Michele Ingenthron, and a new executive director of elementary schools, Chris Wendt.
Officials have not yet named a replacement for Bill Faflick, assistant superintendent of secondary schools. Faflick last month was named executive director-elect of the Kansas State High School Activities Association.
10. Wichita teachers will start the summer with questions swirling over next year’s contract. Talks between the district and United Teachers of Wichita representatives have been delayed while state lawmakers work to craft a new school finance formula.
Teachers started the school year with their contract in dispute. Union and board members eventually approved a contract that included a lump-sum payment and some increases for additional education and experience but increased most teachers’ health care costs.