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Bond monies helps KCK School District build new schools and renovate others

School is out for the summer and while the Kansas City, Kansas USD500 school children are on break—renovations are happening at school buildings across the district. Families will see two new grade schools and two new middle schools open in the 2019 and 2020 school year—replacing buildings that have lived long past their life cycle.

“Our oldest building that we are replacing this year is Welborn Elementary School. It was built in 1914, the year that WWI first started, so I think we got our value out of that building. The average age of our other buildings are over 60 years old,” said Mark Stubbolo, Certified Facilities Management/Project Manager for the school district.

In November 2016, Wyandotte County voters approved a $235 million bond to pay for major capital improvements to the district’s facilities. The bond referendum did not increase taxes for residents in the Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools district.

“There was no tax increase passed onto the residents and that made the bond an easier sell,” said Dr. Kelli Mather, Chief Operating Officer for the district.

An assessment team was put together to look at the needs of the school district with their buildings and how they should prioritize their needs. The team listened to administrative staff, teachers and parents as to what they would like to see happen in the buildings. The district has 83 distinct projects—work that has been long overdue within the district, but funding was limited over the years.

“Out of those meetings, we have designed a five-year plan—we made the decision to replace two elementary schools and two middle schools and complete renovations at all the other school buildings,” said Dr. Mather.

Besides working on buildings, one of the first projects launched in the district was constructing a playground at an elementary school that didn’t have one.

“Some of the schools hadn’t had playground equipment for years. We did nine playgrounds in the district. When the children saw the playgrounds and the equipment for them to use, the smiles on their faces made it all worthwhile,” said Stubbolo.

Coronado Middle School and West Middle School will be merged together in a new building in 2020. The school will be named the Gloria Willis Middle School, after Willis, who was a long-time educator and school board member in the district. A ground-breaking ceremony was held at 1735 North 64th Terrace, behind the current Coronado Middle school.

The bond monies will help every school in the district to be equipped with an updated security system. Within the newly built school facilities, they will be equipped with storm shelters for students to use during threatening weather.

“Our new buildings will be fully ADA compliant as we want to be able to have special needs students in our buildings. The new buildings will have their own kitchen facilities, so they will be able to cook on the property, they will be equipped with the latest technology for our students to use. They are good buildings,” said Stubbolo.

Dr. Mather added, “technology and learning changes so we are trying to make the buildings adaptable for the future.”

Work began last December at Wyandotte High School at 25th and Minnesota with replacing the plumbing inside the building. It has been a major undertaking for the 81-year-old high school.

“This is no small project for a building of that size. The work should be done in late September,” said Stubbolo.

As the construction projects were taking place before school ended in May, the students have seen the work of the skilled craftsman and some have expressed an interest in the jobs. J.E. Dunn Construction Company in Kansas City, Missouri is the general contractor for the projects, and when they learned that the Wyandotte High School students were interested in the construction field, they gave them a tour of their Wyandotte County operations facility.

“Dunn Construction is very open to giving our students tours and talking to them about the construction industry. The number of people going into the trades have dropped and they are very good jobs. If we can expose the students to the field, it may attract them to a job and they may find their calling and that would be wonderful for our students,” said Stubbolo.

One advantage the district has received with their bond by having multiple projects going on at the same time, it has helped them to negotiate pricing for materials.

Anytime that a school district can bring in new schools it is an economic factor for the city—it helps to retain families and attract new families to the neighborhoods surrounding the new builds.

Dr. Mather pointed out, “the kids in Kansas City, Kansas deserve the best quality education that we can give them. We value our families and our community, it is important to us.”

The school district assessment team recognized that construction is J.E. Dunn business, but they too, are in the project to help students succeed in their education.

“For me and the team, we are here to build buildings, but what is happening here is we are changing lives. J.E. Dunn—these guys are serious about building, but they also think about the kids, they want what is best for them and they are passionate about that,” said Stubbolo.