Maize school district leaders have ruled out building a third middle school, saying enrollment trends point to renovating and adding onto Maize Middle School instead.
“We don’t see a third middle school in our near-distant future, so we’ve eliminated that” from discussions about a potential bond issue, said Maize superintendent Doug Powers.
The Maize school board is expected to vote in coming months whether to put a bond issue before voters this year.
Late last year officials with RSP & Associates, an Olathe-based consulting group, completed a demographic study and enrollment analysis for Maize. The study showed that the district’s enrollment likely will increase, “but not at the same rate that we grew prior to the recession,” Powers said.
He said an expansion at Maize Middle School could modernize the school, which was built in 1985, and address concerns about crowding for an estimated $18 million – about half the cost of a new school.
That would put a bond issue price tag at about $70 million, Powers said.
A Maize bond issue also could include a $20 million aquatic center – a proposal leaders briefly tabled last year because nearby Goddard was moving forward with plans for an Olympic-quality natatorium complex.
Powers said Maize board members seemed “very open” to the concept of a district pool complex at a meeting last week, assuming they can figure a way to pay operating costs, estimated at about $250,000 a year. The district could generate about $150,000 annually from rental fees, Powers said, and would look to partner with the Maize Recreation Commission, YMCA or other groups to make up the difference.
“We just need to firm up that last little bit and help alleviate any fears that we’re going to be looking to patch another $250,000 hole in our budget,” he said.
About a year ago, a group advising Maize schools on a potential bond issue named an aquatic center among its top priorities for athletic improvements in the district. The group envisioned a 50-meter-by-25-yard pool and elevated seating for 1,000, similar to the Capitol Federal Natatorium in Topeka.
Other items on Maize’s bond-issue wish list include a storm shelter at Maize High School, a new Early Childhood Center, an improved transportation building and an $8.5 million Career and Professional Center with classrooms for programs such as health science, agriculture, culinary arts and engineering.
A telephone survey of Maize voters conducted last year by Patron Insight showed solid support for a bond issue between $65 million and $85 million, as long as voters agreed with the proposed projects.
Maize officials still are wrestling with whether to change the way it assigns students to middle and high schools. Leaders have spent more than two years exploring the district’s placement process but have not decided whether to establish boundaries, a feeder pattern or some system other than its current preference system.
Powers said the bond issue as it’s shaping up now “wouldn’t impact how we place kids,” so the board potentially could move forward on a bond and then decide the placement issue.
“It’s been a long process … but they’re both huge decisions for us,” Powers said. “I wouldn’t anticipate making a change and that change not being a long-lasting change that’s implemented for decades, and it would affect generations of students.”