The Wichita school district’s new $31 million Northeast High School would not open as a traditional high school but would instead become the new home of Northeast Magnet High School under a proposal released Thursday night for realigning Wichita’ high school boundaries.
Superintendent John Allison told a district advisory group studying the boundaries that the move would save $10 million to $12 million a year – the cost of operating a comprehensive high school. The current Northeast Magnet, located at 1847 N. Chautauqua, would close under the plan.
Northeast Magnet has an enrollment of about 600 students and a waiting list of 100 more, Allison said. The new high school, scheduled to open next fall near 37th Street North and Rock Road in Bel Aire, is being built to house 800 students.
The new Northeast High School was made possible through a $370 million bond issue that district voters approved in 2008. The campaign supporting the bond issue was based in part on a need to alleviate crowding at nearby Heights High School. Allison said growth in northeast Sedgwick County has slowed considerably since 2008, and the projected enrollment at Heights has since been reduced.
The proposal to turn the new high school into a magnet was made by RSP & Associates, a consulting firm hired by the district to help redraw school boundaries. The firm will consider recommendations from the advisory group on Thursday night and may alter its plans before the group meets again Jan. 5.
RSP & Associates on Thursday also revised a proposal it made last month for redrawing the district’s elementary school boundaries.
The initial plan called for the closing of five grade schools, but the revised plan released Thursday cut the number to four after the group decided Payne Elementary, 1601 S. Edwards, should remain open. The firm is still recommending the closure of Bryant Core Knowledge Magnet, Lincoln, Mueller Aerospace and Engineering Magnet, and Woodland Health and Wellness Magnet under the revised plan.
Under its first draft for realigning middle and high school boundaries, no other schools would close and most boundaries would remain about the same.
The suggestion that the new Northeast High School be used as a magnet school did not sit well with all members of the advisory group.
“When the bond issue came out, we didn’t say were would be building a new magnet school,” said Jeff Gates, one of the advisory group’s members. “This is markedly different from what was sold.”
“The bottom line is, call your legislators; call the governor,” Allison said. He said a drop in state aid for schools is forcing the district to cut millions of dollars from its budget.
Said Lindsay Wagoner, another member of the advisory group, “We are kind of backpedaling, but what can you do?”