The Wichita school district will officially break ground Monday on its largest, costliest and most controversial bond issue project: a new Southeast High School.
A groundbreaking ceremony at 6 p.m. at the site of the new school, near 127th Street East and Pawnee, will “highlight the beginning of a new school and the continuation of the proud traditions Southeast High School has held since 1957,” district officials said in a news release.
The Wichita school board voted last summer to build a new, $60 million Southeast High rather than a smaller, Class 5A high school, as proposed in the bond plan voters approved in 2008. It is expected to open in fall 2016 and is being designed to accommodate 1,800 students.
Some lawmakers and neighborhood groups actively fought the plan to move Southeast High from its core city neighborhood at Lincoln and Edgemoor. They urged the board to instead put bond money toward renovating and expanding the current school, which has the highest transfer rate of any high school in Wichita.
This year, about 1,500 students attend Southeast High. Nearly a third of the students who live within the Southeast boundaries attend other schools: public, private, e-schools or home schools.
The new Southeast High will be divided into four main areas: a two-story academic wing, a two-story “technology plaza,” a fine arts area and a P.E./athletics area, officials said. Like the new Northeast Magnet High School, which opened in 2012, it will feature a “main street” hallway concept to ease traffic flow from one side of the school to the other.
The school will have a 900-seat auditorium and fine arts suite, a library with seating for 100 students, career and technical education classrooms, a 1,800-seat gymnasium with a walking track, a swimming pool, storm shelters and several alcoves that will serve as mini-commons areas to give students places to gather during lunch. It also will have outdoor athletic facilities, including a football stadium with all-weather turf, a track, tennis courts and practice fields.
The school is being designed by Schaefer Johnson Cox Frey Architecture, which also serves as the district’s bond manager. Five firms have applied to be construction manager for the project. A selection committee will interview the firms on Oct. 10 and possibly recommend one for approval by the full board on Oct. 13.
The district plans to consolidate many of its downtown offices at the current Southeast High, 903 S. Edgemoor. Wichita Area Technical College officials have expressed interest in leasing space in that building as well, and it also has been floated as a possible site for a law enforcement training center.