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Students won't quite be trading pencils and paper for hammers and hard hats, but they likely will find construction projects all around the Wichita area this school year.
Wichita, Derby and Mulvane public schools are all working through various bond packages.
Wichita Public Schools Superintendent John Allison said about 30 projects were put on pause and study after budget cuts hindered the district. Some will move forward.
Those in the district will see new buildings this school year, while others will close, but no projects are expected to interfere with learning.
"We were very careful to stage those projects so it won't impact instruction, but in many cases students will get to see additions going up or changes from a distance," Allison said. "It makes the summers very, very busy, because we don't want to impact what goes on in the classroom or negatively impact instruction."
The state recently upped its base state aid per pupil by $58. Allison said it is a step forward for school districts, but still not near where funding levels were four years ago.
Derby residents recently passed a more than $60 million proposal. With it, the district will build a new middle school and central kitchen, as well as renovating other facilities, including $11 million toward the current middle school.
"We're going to have to make some accommodations while the construction goes on," said Superintendent Craig Wilford. "Currently we're putting a new roof on El Paso (Elementary), and that should be done before school starts, but the next stop is Oaklawn Elementary, and we're probably going to catch them during the school year. There will be some adjustments we'll have to make, but hopefully they'll be minor."
The district chose not to go after all items that were proposed in the beginning of discussions for a bond issue. Items such as a new track at the high school and enhancements to Panther Stadium will come from the district's capital outlay.
"Overall I believe our mill rate is only going to go up about 1.5 mills, total. It'll be a slight increase, but to have the type of state-of-the-art facilities we're going to get out of this bond issue, I think it'll be a real asset to our community."
The new middle school is expected to be ready for students in the fall of 2015.
Only a few years ago, Mulvane residents voted down a potential $40 million bond project. Brad Rahe, superintendent of Mulvane Public Schools, said it was a result of bad timing and asking for too much.
"When they did the $40 million bond issue, that's when the economy crashed," Rahe said. "They went back, they polled the community and said 'what exactly would you support in a bond issue?' The board of education here in Mulvane did a great job of listening to what folks would do."
Lyle Couch Stadium is near completion of phase of its first phase, which included replacing grass with a turf playing surface. Munson Primary and the grade school will receive parking renovations. The grade school will also add a gymnasium. The district's central operations will also be upgraded.
Rahe said residents will see some construction now, but projects will begin in earnest at the start of next year.
The three superintendents discussed how bond projects and the budget are affecting their district on KFDI's "At Issue" program with Kyle McCaskey. A podcast of the interviews can be found here.