Wichita school district leaders got their first inside look at the new Southeast High School on Thursday, a $60 million complex that will be the city’s first new comprehensive high school to open in nearly 40 years.
“I look forward to seeing the kids in the building and the teachers in the building, and just that first day,” said Lori Doyle, principal at Southeast. “It’s all very exciting.”
Doyle toured the building with about two dozen of her staff members Wednesday and then again Thursday with district officials and media.
Kenton Cox of Schaefer Johnson Cox Frey Architecture, which designed the building, said the school at 127th Street East and Pawnee is about half complete. It is scheduled to open in August 2016.
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The school is massive – 330,000 square feet – and divided into four main areas: a two-story academic wing, a two-story technology plaza, a fine arts area and a physical education and athletic complex.
It features a “main street” hallway concept to allow easy access from one side of the school to the other, a 900-seat auditorium and fine arts suite, and a library with seating for 100 students.
Visitors wore hard hats on Thursday’s tour and dodged mud puddles, exposed rebar, duct work and heavy equipment on what is an active construction site.
Still, they could see the shell of the building taking shape. Glass walkways join classroom wings on the second level. The 1,800-seat gymnasium, swimming pool, practice gym and wrestling room are roughed in. Huge openings in every area of the school, including hallways and staircases, show the designers’ emphasis on natural light.
“We didn’t want any part of the building to feel boxed in,” Cox said.
Light beige bricks are the signature material at the new Southeast High – about 500,000 bricks in all. Designers said they chose the custom color to contrast with darker metal features, and opted for larger bricks to cut time and construction costs.
The school will have two main storm shelters – the wrestling room on the west side and a four-classroom section on the east side that have been fortified to withstand tornado-force winds and flying debris.
“It’s beautiful,” school board member Barbara Fuller said as she toured the building. “It’s great to finally get inside and see what’s happening.”
School board members voted in 2013 to build the new school, by far the largest and most expensive project approved as part of the 2008 bond issue. It will replace the current Southeast High at Lincoln and Edgemoor, which opened in 1957.
The district sold its downtown administration building and plans to move its offices to the old Southeast High after the new school opens.
District officials said earlier this year that the new Southeast High likely will open without a varsity football stadium. Dwindling bond funds, rising construction costs and the loss of about $47 million in federal and state matching dollars mean two new district stadiums – as proposed in the original 2008 bond plan – will have to wait, they said.