Goddard opens new high school

Goddard area students begin the school year at the new Eisenhower High School Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2011.
Goddard area students begin the school year at the new Eisenhower High School Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2011. The Wichita Eagle

The floors are polished, the lockers shiny, the cafeteria noticeably free of stray tater tots and ketchup splats.

When Eisenhower High School opened Tuesday, it was the start of a new school year and a new era for the Goddard school district.

"It's cool because we get to be the first ones here. We get to set all the traditions," said junior Lyndie Simmons.

"It's a new place. But I see lots of teachers and friends I recognize, so it's not all new."

About 50,000 Wichita public school students and students in nearby communities will return to school today. The Goddard district started its year Tuesday and celebrated the opening of its second high school.

Eisenhower High, a $30 million campus near the corner of U.S. 54 and 167th Street West, opened with about 750 students, including more than 90 seniors who chose to transfer from Goddard High School to be part of the school's first graduating class.

Eisenhower was built to accommodate growth in the burgeoning school district in west Wichita and to relieve crowding at Goddard High. The school was one of three built as part of an $83.7 million bond issue approved by voters in 2007.

"We've all been anxious to get students into the school and get started," said Bill Kelley, who will lead the new school after 15 years as principal of Goddard High. "It's an exciting day."

On Tuesday, staff members wore T-shirts that featured Eisenhower's colors — light blue and black — and its mascot, a white Siberian tiger. A slogan on the back of the shirts said, "I like Ike!"

The colors and mascot are a nod to the blue-and-white Lions of Goddard High. Similarly, the name of Eisenhower's dance team, the Tigerettes, echoes Goddard High's Lionettes.

"Goddard High School is a great place, and it will always have a place in our hearts," Kelley said. "Eisenhower is something totally new. We form the traditions here and decide how things go in the future, and you don't get that opportunity very often."

Unlike the Maize district, which allows students to choose an educational path that leads to either Class 6A Maize High or Class 4A Maize South, geographical boundaries determine which high school Goddard students attend. With few exceptions, students living north of Highway 54 will attend Eisenhower, and those living south will attend Goddard High. This year's seniors got to choose.

Senior Josh Wallentine chose Eisenhower because "This was a new opportunity, and you just never know what can happen," he said.

Wallentine, Eisenhower's student body president, said the two Class 5A high schools will likely develop a fierce rivalry.

"But I don't expect it to be a hard-core, 'We hate the other school' type of thing," he said.

The schools will field one football team, one cheerleading squad and one marching band this fall, but separate teams in the other fall sports.

Students spent much of Tuesday finding classrooms and learning new procedures. The 240,000-square-foot school features several state-of-the-art amenities, including a multimedia production lab with a large studio, control room and soundproof editing bays.

During the bond issue campaign, voters balked at the idea of elaborate athletic facilities for the second high school. So Eisenhower has practice fields, but the two high schools will share one sports complex.

Librarian Rachel Nally spent the past three weeks unpacking, labeling and shelving more than 8,600 new books for Eisenhower's library. The room also features several white tiger posters and stuffed animals and a "cafe" with high-top tables where Nally envisions students and teacher working on laptops.

"It's nice," she said, smiling. "Everything is new. ... It's great to get a fresh start."

But not everything is up and running. When Kelley welcomed students at the first all-school assembly Tuesday morning, the auditorium stage was unusually dark because "we couldn't figure out how to turn the lights on," he said.

Crews also have been tweaking the school's air-conditioning and intercom systems.

"We've got different pieces to figure out, but it's minor stuff," Kelley said. "My message to the students today is to thank their parents and the community for their support because we're very blessed."

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