Wichita residents discuss ideas for Southeast High at meeting

Keep Southeast High where it is.

Build a new school.

Do both.

Those were the options on the table and on several easels Tuesday evening, as about 100 residents gathered and then split into small groups to share their thoughts on what should happen with the 56-year-old school at Lincoln and Edgemoor.

“It doesn’t make sense to move it. There’s already been a foundation set here,” said Kristine Sanders, whose son is a freshman at Southeast.

“Why would you bus all these kids way down to a new school?”

Amy Vuong, who will be a senior at Southeast in the fall, said she will graduate before any of the plans come to fruition. But a new building at 127th Street East and Pawnee could be a great new start for Southeast, she said.

“People are constantly moving forward and always updating, and I feel like the new school would be a fit with that,” she said.

Depending on the room, discussion ranged from quiet to combative. Participants were directed to share possible benefits and disadvantages of each option – “What excites you most about this option? … What concerns you most?” – and to talk about what’s most important for the future of Southeast.

Advantages to keeping Southeast at Lincoln and Edgemoor included lower bond and transportation costs, less impact to the surrounding neighborhood, and maintaining traditions. Advantages to building a new school included better facilities, planning for growth, and making good on a bond-issue promise for a new southeast quadrant school.

A few participants walked out of one classroom in anger after being directed to write questions on an index card for district leaders to address later.

Mary Dean said the community engagement session reminded her of boundary discussions last spring, when some residents actively opposed the closing of five schools.

“I’m not going to be a part of this nonsense,” Dean said. “What happened last year is the same thing that’s happening now. It’s like OK, the decision’s already been made. We don’t need that.”

After the 90-minute meeting, Superintendent John Allison said he was pleased and encouraged by the discussion. Volunteers from Wichita State University’s Center for Community Support and Research led the small groups and will report their findings to the school board, he said.

“The whole intent was for the board to get input from various members of the community, to make some really tough decisions,” Allison said. “We had folks here and they were engaged, and that’s what we wanted.”

At the start of the meeting, Cindy and Jeff Janasek stood in the auditorium lobby, holding black umbrellas over their heads. The couple, whose son is a junior at Southeast, said they wanted school leaders to know about major roof leaks at the school.

“Our son will graduate before any of these plans get done,” Jeff Janasek said. “We’re here to say: Whatever you do, just fix the roof.”

Cindy Janasek said “a sheet of water” recently poured down on orchestra students onstage during a performance. Water also leaks into the building in several hallways and classrooms, she said.

“Whatever is decided about Southeast’s future, this is an emergency that needs to be addressed,” she said.

Allison, the superintendent, said he wasn’t aware of any major roof leaks at Southeast.

“As with any building this size and age, there will be leaks at times. When those occur, the building submits a work order, and we patch those as quickly as possible,” he said.

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