Bond is­sue fo­cus: New mid­dle school, high school up­grade

The Kansas City Star - - Lee's Summit Journal - BY BETH LIPOFF Spe­cial to the Jour­nal

On April 7, Lee’s Sum­mit res­i­dents will vote on a bond is­sue that could help open new doors for sixth graders in mid­dle school.

The no-tax-in­crease bond is­sue would be worth $224 mil­lion in cap­i­tal projects for the Lee’s Sum­mit R-7 district. The con­struc­tion of a fourth mid­dle school is among the large projects, which also in­clude an $80 over­haul at Lee’s Sum­mit High School and a $9 mil­lion new early ed­u­ca­tion cen­ter.

The district cur­rently has three mid­dle schools hous­ing sev­enth and eighth graders. If the bond is­sue passes and a new mid­dle school is funded, all sixth graders in Lee’s Sum­mit R-7 would move from ele­men­tary school to mid­dle school start­ing in fall 2022. The three ex­ist­ing mid­dle schools would also get ex­ten­sive ren­o­va­tions to help fa­cil­i­tate the change.

Katy Ber­gen, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of pub­lic re­la­tions at Lee’s

Sum­mit R-7 School District, says the move is part of a com­pre­hen­sive fa­cil­i­ties master plan which ad­dresses var­i­ous fu­ture chal­lenges for the district, like pro­jected growth in at­ten­dance.

“This has been a very strate­gic process that goes back more than a year,” Ber­gen said.

School board mem­bers have al­ready ap­proved the move of sixth grade to mid­dle school. While the de­ci­sion will re­sult in ex­tra class­room space at district ele­men­tary build­ings, the main rea­son for the move is to pro­vide both aca­demic and so­cial ad­van­tages for stu­dents. Sixth graders will be able to take more elec­tives ear­lier and will have more time at mid­dle school.

“We wanted to make mid­dle school more of a home for stu­dents,” Ber­gen said.

Some of the space left be­hind by sixth graders will be re­pur­posed to help even younger learn­ers. If the bond is­sue passes, the district will con­struct a new early childhood de­vel­op­ment cen­ter at Prairie View Ele­men­tary.

The Great Be­gin­nings Early

Ed­u­ca­tion cen­ter, which serves preschool­ers, cur­rently op­er­ates at ca­pac­ity. The district uses satel­lite class­rooms at sev­eral ele­men­tary schools to meet the needs of area preschool­ers. The $9 mil­lion ren­o­va­tion at Prairie View would pro­vide a cen­tral lo­ca­tion for th­ese ser­vices.

“Prairie View is a good school for that. It has a dif­fer­ent set up. It was built as two ele­men­tary schools,” Ber­gen said.

The cost for planned ren­o­va­tions at Lee’s Sum­mit High School are pro­jected to ex­ceed the cost of a new mid­dle school. The $80 mil­lion project will con­nect sev­eral build­ings at the school with a “spine” cor­ri­dor. It would add 50,000 square feet of in­te­rior space to the cam­pus and elim­i­nate the need for stu­dents to walk out­side be­tween classes.

“It’s a safety is­sue for stu­dents,” Ber­gen said. “It gets re­ally crowded. I think stu­dents like walk­ing out­doors when the weather is nice, but when the weather is not nice, it’s a chal­lenge.”

The high school would also get a new fa­cade fac­ing 50 High­way, a new me­dia cen­ter, staff col­lab­o­ra­tion rooms, project-based learn­ing space and meet­ing cen­ters. Con­struc­tion would take place over 2.5 years. The school will not close dur­ing the ren­o­va­tion.

Also in­cluded on the list of projects to be funded by the pas­sage of the bond is­sue in­clude safety and se­cu­rity up­grades through­out the district; an ad­di­tion and ren­o­va­tion to Ma­son Ele­men­tary School; and im­prove­ments to the district’s high school ath­letic fa­cil­i­ties and sta­di­ums.

The last no-tax-in­crease bond is­sue for Lee’s Sum­mit Schools passed in 2015. Among other fa­cil­ity im­prove­ments, the 2015 vote funded con­struc­tion of the Mis­souri In­no­va­tion Cam­pus.

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WE WANTED TO MAKE MID­DLE SCHOOL MORE OF A HOME FOR STU­DENTS.

Katy Ber­gen, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of pub­lic re­la­tions at Lee’s Sum­mit R-7 School District

Kansas City

A no-tax-in­crease bond is­sue would be worth $224 mil­lion in cap­i­tal projects for the Lee’s Sum­mit R-7 district. The con­struc­tion of a fourth mid­dle school is among the large projects.

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