Archive for Thursday, June 29, 2006

Countryside Learning Center upgrades top district’s summer project list

June 29, 2006

At a time when most districts are scrambling to fix buildings while classes are out for the summer, the De Soto district's concern is mostly in how to build new ones.

A few projects are finishing up this summer as the district prepares to move its entire preschool program into Countryside Learning Center. In a district of new schools, Countryside was built in the 1960s and remodeled in 1985. Several of the projects are routine to keep the building in check.

District special services director Joe Vitt said a portion of the preschool that was at Prairie Ridge would be at Countryside next year.

"We had to make room at Prairie Ridge (Elementary), because that building is growing by leaps and bounds and we always like to give priority to K through five in our elementaries," he said.

Preschool for the west side of the district has been at Countryside several years because there is no room at Starside, Vitt said. Part of a proposed expansion for the upcoming bond referendum to be before voters in November would increase Starside's capacity, he said.

"Originally when Starside was built, one or two of the kindergarten classrooms were intended for preschool," Vitt said. "But that quickly got taken by other students and services. The growth is just making us move programs to where there is space available."

He said some of those other services included Starside's Title I and English as a Second Language programs.

"There's more support staff at Starside than there are at the other elementaries and there isno space for them," he said. "That wasn't built into the design."

District facilities director Denis Johnson said when the projects were finished at the building, the cost would be about $340,000. Projects at Countryside include removing asbestos floor tile, repainting the building, recarpeting and bathroom renovations.

"Use of this building has been up and down," Johnson said. "We haven't had as many programs recently, but from this point forward, we're going to be pretty full out there."

The expansion of the preschool program will add six new half-day sessions at the building, requiring the need for three classrooms. The district has already used the building for preschool on the west side of the district.

East-side growth forced the district to move the preschool program from Prairie Ridge Elementary School in Shawnee to Countryside.

In the fall of 2007, with the opening of the new elementary school at 71st and Chouteau, the east-side preschool program will move back to Shawnee.

Countryside Learning Center is also used for the Title I program at Starside Elementary School, the Y-Care extended daycare program for kindergarten students, Parents As Teachers and the vocational program co-op with Eudora.

Johnson said when the east-side preschool program left Countryside in 2007, there would still be many uses for the building.

"These classrooms will eventually fill in pretty quick with more kids on this side of the district," he said.

Vitt said he knew of five or six private preschools in western Shawnee that have waiting lists. He said the district was grateful for the opportunity to use Countryside as a resource.

"I think it's important people see that building is used heavily," he said. "The west side (preschool) will stay in Countryside, so it's going to be well-utilized and will be for some time to come because the population over here is growing as well."

Other capital outlay projects for the year include resurfacing the parking lot at Starside, resurfacing the De Soto High School track and adding a fence around the track. Costs are projected to total $21,000 for the parking lot and around $90,000 for the stadium. The costs for all capital improvement plans are in a line item in the school's budget that is separate from its general operations and other expenses.

Johnson said the district was fortunate to have many new buildings that have not yet needed major repairs. The district office buildings, Starside, De Soto High School, Monticello Trails Middle School, Mill Valley High School and Clear Creek, Prairie Ridge and Riverview elementary schools were all built within the past 12 years. However, Johnson said the district would begin a capital improvement plan next year to provide regular maintenance to the buildings.

"Some are getting to be 12 to 14 years old, so we put together a long-range plan since we're getting into a model to replace a lot of major things," he said.

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