Archive for Thursday, January 19, 2006

New high school off list

Board considers bond issue options

January 19, 2006

The next bond issue for De Soto USD 232 could total more than $100 million, but it won't include a new high school at 83rd Street and Mize.

District administrators presented board members with five scenarios at Tuesday's meeting for a new bond issue to accommodate the growing communities of De Soto, western Lenexa and western Shawnee. Board members didn't agree on a specific plan, but will consider each proposal before its next meeting Feb. 6. Board members are hoping to place a referendum before voters in November to coincide with the state elections.

Director of communications Alvie Cater said the board could choose to use any proposal or a combination of items in each scenario. He said the district's experience in passing the last bond issue in 2002 served as a reminder of district voters' preferences. In May 2002, voters rejected a $91 million bond referendum but approved a $76 million project list when that was placed before them in November of that year.

"We don't have a lot of retail in our district, so the homeowners have to bear the majority of the costs," Cater said.

The five scenarios presented Tuesday had total costs ranging from $117.8 million to $164.4 million. Board members went through ideas in each proposal and picked out items that won't be included in the next bond issue.

Board member Bill Waye said he didn't think any proposal as it was presented would be a solution to overcrowding at the district.

"I think that they're good ideas," he said. "I just don't see a single scenario there that we can do. I'm uncomfortable taking anything off the list."

Although board members agreed that a new high school at 83rd and Mize is necessary, it wouldn't be included in the next bond issue.

"We can't put it off forever," board member Rick Walker said. "But not on this bond."

Instead, board members agreed by consensus to expand De Soto High School to 1,000 students and Mill Valley High School to between 1,200 and 1,250 students. They also agreed the next bond issue would definitely include an expansion of Starside Elementary in De Soto, two new elementary schools and money for land acquisition. The board wants more discussion about middle school band room expansions.

District facilities director Denis Johnson said the district got the capacity numbers from the number of anticipated students in a class. Most elementary schools, except for Prairie Ridge, were designed for four sections in each grade level with about 20 to 25 students in each class. The problem of overcrowding, Johnson said, occurred when more students enrolled at an elementary school and the school was forced to put in another class that takes up space in a school's discovery center. When those classes arrive at the middle school level, that school can also become overcrowded.

Johnson and district planning director Jack Deyoe presented the board with five scenarios based on the report from June 2005 for the Facilities Focus Group, which identified $164.4 million in needs. That list included a Starside Elementary expansion, Mill Valley soccer field lighting, Monticello Trails and Lexington Trails band room additions, De Soto High and Mill Valley weight room additions, De Soto High School office and exploratory classrooms, district service warehouse, two new elementary schools, a new high school at 83rd and Mize, an early childhood center at the 71st Street site, technology enhancements, land acquisition, funds for joint community project and bonding fees.

Board members agreed they needed more discussion on lighting for the Mill Valley soccer field, a district service warehouse, both Lexington Trails and Monticello Trails middle school band room expansions, the early childhood center, a contingency fund and technology enhancements. Various district administrators were assigned the task of researching the needs further.

A third list, dubbed "make-a-case-for-it," included the weight room additions in the two high schools, auxiliary gyms in the high schools and an expansion of Riverview Elementary. Principals of those schools were assigned the task establishing the need for the projects on the list.

In making the decision to build two new elementary schools, the board rejected the two cheapest options, which would have moved some fifth- and sixth-graders from present attendance centers or created two kindergarten and preschool centers. A $117.8 million scenario would have placed Starside and Mize elementary fifth- and sixth-graders from Monticello Trails at the new middle school on Mize Road.

Also rejected by board members and staff was a $127.8 million kindergarten center scenario, which would put kindergartners in De Soto at Countryside Learning Center. Shawnee would also have a kindergarten center at 71st and Choteau.

Superintendent Sharon Zoellner said school administrators opposed the final two proposals for a fifth- and sixth-grade center and kindergarten centers, citing concerns for students. She said the number of transitions asked of students from building to building could negatively affect their education.

Jack Deyoe, director of operations, said one of the new elementary schools would have to be built in De Soto, based on projected growth of the district.

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