Archive for Thursday, July 20, 2006

Boundary committee selection process changed

July 20, 2006

What had been an open committee will now be more exclusive.

After a Monday evening tour of Mill Creek Middle School, the De Soto USD 232 Board of Education agreed to alter the participation in a boundary committee that will recommend how school boundaries within the district will change with the opening of the middle school and a new elementary school in August 2007.

USD 232 board member Bill Waye listens Monday as Hollis and Miller
architect Kirk Horner explains details of Mill Creek Middle School
being built in Lenexa.

USD 232 board member Bill Waye listens Monday as Hollis and Miller architect Kirk Horner explains details of Mill Creek Middle School being built in Lenexa.

A committee of parents and patrons will make several recommendations to the board later this year for the attendance boundaries of both buildings.

District operations director Jack Deyoe recommended a change in the way the district selected members of the boundary committee. Board members agreed to let the building and district administrators select representatives from site councils and parent-teacher groups throughout the district.

District communications director Alvie Cater said this was a change from the past practice of opening boundary committees to the general public.

"It is a little more formal so there's a cross section from the entire district, so parents at Starside or from any part of the district can have some say over changes in the district."

Cater said district administrators are aware some parents might not be happy with the final changes in the boundaries.

"Boundary changes unfortunately are a fact for us, but they're also very near and dear to the hearts of parents," Cater said. "It's never fun for everyone."

Mill Creek Middle School is 75 percent finished and builders say it's on schedule for a December completion date.

Kirk Horner, vice president of Hollis and Miller Group architectural services, was one of the tour guides showing off the nearly-finished building Monday to board members.

The district's newest middle school, south of Mize Elementary School and scheduled to open next August, will use the modern concept of pod teaching. Similar to Monticello Trails Middle School, classrooms will be grouped by grade level with a separate locker and activity area for each.

The new middle school features a wide main corridor with 18-foot high ceilings. Horner said the taller parts of the building -- the gymnasium, the vocal and instrumental music and the commons area, have been grouped together with the high corridor to keep the roof level.

"We're eliminating ups and downs to prevent strain on the roof so it won't leak," Horner said.

He said the large corridor served another purpose -- to help new students and patrons find their way in the building.

"We hope it would make it seem not quite so big," he said.

At the main entrance on the south side of the building, a glassed-in commons area will serve as both a cafeteria and a community gathering space with a stage in the back.

The gymnasium is located directly behind the stage next to the locker rooms and bathrooms, which can be opened separately from the classrooms, Horner said. The bleachers in the gym will have room behind them for extra storage.

"Space is always a premium when it comes to P.E. and storage," he said.

Horner said the size of the library is the same as the one at Lexington Trails Middle School, but might seem larger because of the wall of windows facing east.

"Hopefully, when it's finished it will be a space that's attractive so kids will use it," he said.

The back of the building will have extra green space and room for more classrooms if necessary. Horner said many of the interior walls of the regular classrooms, mostly on the west side of the building, were built so they could be removed in later years for expansions or changes without a major renovation project. The administrative pod has the same type of walls, which are constructed with lexan instead of drywall to make them more durable.

"We're very proud of the new building and hope you will be too," Horner said.

The new school cost the district about $19.8 million and was approved by voters in a 2002 bond referendum. The main contractors are J.E. Dunn and the general architects are Hollis and Miller, although both companies are using several subcontractors for the project.

District facilities director Denis Johnson said the district plans to begin filling the building with furniture and preparing technology in December and January. Then, Johnson said the district would focus its attention on the completion of the elementary school at 71st and Chouteau in Shawnee. Both are set to open in August 2007 to accommodate the 300 to 400 new students the district has each year.

Tim Drake will be the new principal of Mill Creek Middle School and begins his contract this summer as he helps the district recruit and hire teachers and classified staff. Although the building is the district's second facility along Mize Road in the center of the district, it is USD 232's first in Lenexa.

The city of Lenexa is granting the district a $20,000 credit for allowing the city to widen the intersection of 83rd and Mize. Because Lenexa is using USD 232 property, they will allow the school district an excise tax credit for their next project. The district will likely build a third high school south of Mill Creek Middle School if population growth continues, but funding for such a project does not exist nor is it proposed for the bond issue district voters will consider in November.

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