Wichita school officials say they are still not sure what will happen with a former Dillons grocery store near North High School, which the district bought four years ago this month for $2 million.
Superintendent John Allison said he’s waiting to see how the remainder of a $370 million bond issue shakes out – in particular, the final cost of a new Southeast High School – before deciding what to do with the former Dillons property.
“We’ve got to get the other bond projects complete, and then we’ll be able to assess what our current needs are and where the funding stands,” Allison said. “There’s a lot of potential there.”
School board members bought the property in December 2010, citing plans to renovate the former grocery store and use it to expand North High’s technical education program.
Dillons closed the store at 13th and Waco, just east of North High, in 2008 and relocated to 21st and Amidon. District officials negotiated with a Delaware-based investment company that owned the building – originally listed at $4.5 million – for more than a year before approving the $2 million deal.
Since 2012, the building has been used as an office, warehouse and distribution center for Operation School Bell, a project of the Assistance League, which provides clothing and other supplies for Wichita-area children in need.
Allison said the 4-acre property is providing much-needed parking for North High, the district’s smallest high school campus. But exactly how the district will use the 44,000-square-foot building is still a question mark, he said.
“Once we get some of the major bids underway at Southeast (High) and have a good feel for the cost factors and those types of things, then we’ll begin to think about what we might eventually do with that Dillons building,” Allison said.
North High’s enrollment has grown by nearly 150 students the past two years. With 2,185 ninth- through 12th-graders this fall, North is only about 40 students shy of East High School, the state’s largest high school.
When they bought the former Dillons store in 2010, district officials pointed to bond issue plans that called for nearly doubling North High’s technical education building, which sits between the school and the Dillons building.
Another part of the bond plan, a $10 million technical education magnet high school program, has since been dropped in favor of technical education projects at each high school and a proposed technical education academy at the new Southeast High.
The first major contracts for work on Southeast “will help us get a feel for what the bidding market’s going to be like” and what the final cost for that project will be, Allison said. “After that is under way, we can start thinking about other projects.”