New school year for Southeast High freshmen, final year for 58-year-old building (+video)

VIDEO: Scenes from Southeast High

Freshman orientation on Monday was the last to be held in the Southeast High at Lincoln and Edgemoor. Next year, school will open in a $60 million new high school at 127th Street East and Pawnee. (Suzanne Tobias/The Wichita Eagle)
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Freshman orientation on Monday was the last to be held in the Southeast High at Lincoln and Edgemoor. Next year, school will open in a $60 million new high school at 127th Street East and Pawnee. (Suzanne Tobias/The Wichita Eagle)

Chelsie Bogovic teaches history at Southeast High School in Wichita, the school she graduated from in 2007.

On Monday, she urged students in her room during ninth-grade orientation to appreciate the history around them.

“You guys are in a neat position. You are going to start school here and finish school in another place,” Bogovic said.

“I know some of you are saying, ‘Ugh, it’s kinda hot’ or ‘It’s old.’ But this is a beautiful, beautiful place, and you should feel grateful that you get to be here for one year.”

Next year, the Wichita school district plans to open the new Southeast High at 127th Street East and Pawnee, a $60 million showpiece and the first new comprehensive high school to open in the district since 1978. So this school year, which begins Tuesday for more than 51,000 students in the Wichita district, will be the last for Southeast High at Lincoln and Edgemoor.

About 460 Southeast High freshmen spent Monday morning learning their way around the school – searching for M Hall, finding the gym, touching the giant buffalo head outside the office, learning the Buffalo Code and chanting the traditional Buffalo Call.

I’m a Buffalo,

You’re a Buffalo,

We’re a Buffalo, all,

And when we get together, we do the Buffalo Call!

Southeast principal Lori Doyle ordered shirts for staff members that have her theme for the year on the front: Communication, trust, commitment. And on the back: “Pack ’em up, Buffs.”

“While we’re going to focus on school here this year, we know that as soon as we get the green light from the district, we’re going to start packing up and starting our new adventure,” Doyle said. “It’s going to be an interesting year.”

The school board’s vote to build a new Southeast High in the far reaches of the district came after months of debate, which began after the district closed several schools and put bond projects on hold as education funding dropped from expected levels.

The $370 million bond issue approved by voters in 2008 called for expanding and renovating Southeast and building a smaller, Class 5A high school in the southeast quadrant. Officials ditched that plan in 2013, saying they could afford to build two schools but not to staff and operate them.

Crews broke ground on the new school last fall.

“The new building is going to be beautiful and shiny and new, but what you get here is tradition,” Bogovic told her students Monday.

“So you need to walk around and see all these different things, like the giant buffalo in the library, that’s pretty cool. … Remember, there’s 58 years of history in this building, people who have gone through before – some of your parents or cousins or aunts and uncles,” she said.

“You’re going to do that whole freshman thing where you get lost a couple times, and then you’re going to get to do it again next year with the rest of us.”

Yasmeen Marks and Xena Rentas, juniors serving as mentors to the incoming freshmen, gave tours and directed students to classrooms and other parts of the building Monday.

“We’re supposed to give them hints, I guess,” Marks said. Her No. 1 piece of advice: “Don’t stand in the halls. Keep moving, because usually it’s way packed.”

“Your first day leads to the rest of your high school career,” Rentas added.

During an assembly in the auditorium, Doyle greeted the Class of 2019.

“Today starts your first journey into your high school career, and we’re excited to have you here,” she said. “This is your opportunity to have the building all to yourself until all students return tomorrow.”

Doyle taught ninth-graders her attention signal for big groups – “I’m going to say, ‘Ready to rock?’ and you’re going to reply back ‘Ready to roll!’ ” And she reviewed the five parts of the Buffalo Code: Be at the right place at the right time, be respectful of our campus and rules, be appropriate in language and dress, be courteous and respectful to all, and be proud to be a Southeast Buffalo.

“Respect is critical in this building,” she said. “We will be respectful to you, and we expect you to be respectful back to us as well.”

Student body president Tina Nguyen urged the class to make high school memorable and to surround themselves with people who support and inspire them.

“High school is like a road trip,” she said. “Along the way, you’re going to hit some bumpy roads and you’re going to have some detours. … But the gas you put in your car is the effort you put in school. As long as you put gas in your tank, you’ll be able to reach your destination.”

Reach Suzanne Perez Tobias at 316-268-6567 or Follow her on Twitter: @suzannetobias.

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