Archive for Thursday, February 12, 2009

Candidates discuss De Soto district post housing bust growth strategy

February 12, 2009

It’s not news that De Soto’s USD 232 is a growing school district.

Enrollment for kindergarten to 12th grade grew by 6 percent from the 2007-2008 school year to the beginning of the 2008-2009 school year.

Patrons of the district passed a $75 million bond issue last November to build a new elementary school and additions to both De Soto High School and Mill Valley High School.

But housing starts have slowed throughout the district in recent years with the housing bust that contributed to the current recession. That has several candidates for USD 232 Board of Education Position 4 calling for the district to reassess its growth methods and assumptions.

Incumbent Randy Johnson said the board needs to take a look into actual growth numbers.

“These numbers may need to be adjusted due to the change in the economy and lower number of new residents,” Johnson said.

Margaret Johnson, De Soto, said being proactive with continued growth would help the district.

“A close relationship with the superintendent and the district staff will be a valuable tool in studying the district needs,” she said. “A plan will need to be put in place to continue to offer the best education possible for students.”

Roger Templin, De Soto, said the board must reexamine its strategic plan in light of changing growth circumstances.

“We can no longer rely on explosive growth to pay for the increasing costs of education,” he said. “The current slowing pace of this growth provides us with an opportunity to reexamine our longer range plans. We can not continue on a path of funding more brick and mortar on the backs of our taxpayers without first ensuring we are properly using the capacity of the existing facilities.”

Updating plans for the future of the district is a way Jeff Hopkins, De Soto, thinks the board could deal with growth.

“The school board needs to come together with district residents and employees to update our district vision,” he said. “About five years ago a vision was developed that outlined goals for the district including school sizes. We have moved away from the vision of 500 for elementary, 750 for middle and 1,000 for high schools,”

Jeff Hopkins said updating the vision would increase commitment for all the stakeholders in the district.

“This would decrease friction during the bond and boundary discussions that will continue to be a part of our district for the foreseeable future,” Hopkins said.

Gregory Hines, De Soto, did not return requests for comment on this issue.

The primary for Position 4 will be March 3. Only residents living in USD 232’s Position 4, which includes small portions of west Shawnee and west Lenexa, De Soto and the unincorporated areas south and west if De Soto, can vote in the primary. The primary will narrow the ballot to three candidates who will vie for the seat districtwide.


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