Archive for Thursday, January 26, 2006

Welcome needs to be extended as DHS changes

January 26, 2006

Last week, the De Soto USD 232 Board of Education decided a third district high school would not be part of a bond issue that will probably go before voters in November. In doing so, the board agreed to expand the size of De Soto High School to 1,000 student capacity and Mill Valley High School to 1,200 or 1,250.

The decision to enlarge Mill Valley High School beyond its current 1,000 enrollment capacity is the first policy departure to come from the board's review of capacities of district schools. With the capacity increase, Mill Valley would be much closer to the Johnson County norm. Once filled, it would have slightly fewer students than the smaller high schools in the Blue Valley district, be about the same size as the two smallest high schools in the Olathe district, but have nearly 800 students fewer than high schools in Shawnee Mission. Even with the expansion, De Soto High School would remain considerably smaller than those in the eastern Johnson County districts.

The decision was made as the board correctly rejected two proposals that would have shuffled elementary students from school to school in an awkward chase for space.

But as the decision to enlarge the local high school will be welcomed by many De Soto taxpayers, it is important to remember something will be lost. Gone in the near future will be what former DHS Principal Debbie Lynn called a community high school. And it will happen sooner than one might expect.

With only three classes, Lexington Trails Middle School currently has more students than De Soto High School. And that is without the full consequence of a boundary change the board approved before the 2004-2005 school year that started sending district sixth-graders west of Kansas Highway 7 to LTMS. Also increasing high school numbers in the near future is development occurring near Mize Road and 83rd Street, a possible residential housing boom in De Soto with the completion of the new wastewater plant, and the fact the district always has more eighth-graders than seniors.

As the character of the high school changes, the community needs to extend a welcoming attitude. It is, after all, to the advantage for De Soto residents and businesses to have the parents visit the city for ball games, plays and other school functions.

Goodwill toward those who will want to be part of the high school community will go a long way in recruiting their participation in the larger community, to the advantage of the business community, the local tax base, civic organizations, city programs (including the new pool), churches and other institutions.

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