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Dr. Higgins: District likely to consider two new school buildings to meet growth needs

Dr. Chad Higgins, Superintendent of Maize USD 266 BY DR. CHAD HIGGINS 
 
 
The challenging work continues on research and plans for new spaces to learn for our growing student body. As I shared with you in January, our district is growing rapidly, and our schools are 87 percent full. We have added about 500 students in the past two years.
 
The committee is working with the understanding that we are aiming to build new spaces for learning and, among other components, will consider building capacities, estimated construction costs, funding sources, enrollment projections, and special education program needs.
 
This rapid student enrollment growth likely will warrant the construction of two new school buildings. This is among considerations before our team that is exploring options for new space for our school district. The group met for a second time in February and will convene again right after Spring Break. Last week, I presented an update to nearly 50 people involved with Parent Teacher Organizations, Site Councils, and Booster Clubs and encouraged those employees and parent volunteers to talk with others in our OneMa1ze community. I also have been meeting with employees in each school building to share updates and gather feedback.
 
Feb. 25 Maize USD 266 facility meeting Today, I would like to share highlights with you, as well. Please keep in mind that this is a work in progress, with no specific decisions or recommendations at this point. There is no easy answer, and all options have pros and cons. The group will continue to weigh those in the coming weeks and months.
 
Potential realignment of grades: Options we are considering include building two intermediate schools that would house fifth and sixth grades and shifting our elementary schools to housing kindergarten through fourth grade. This would relieve the space in our crowded elementary schools, which are 91 percent full, and Maize Middle School, set to reach capacity in the next two years.
 
Accelerated timeline: We are working quickly through this process, anticipating that we will need to open new schools by August 2021. You also may remember from my January message that new state legislation limits the amount of bond money schools statewide can cumulatively seek each year. We intend to finalize our plan and approach the Kansas State Board of Education on July 1 to request approval to seek any bond funding we may need. This is a new necessary step because of the new bond cap.
 
Feeder systems: We are considering an option that would have students in one feeder system matriculate through buildings/grade levels differently than the other feeder system to maximize current and future space needs. Some options would require a transition to a feeder system that dictates how students progress through our schools from kindergarten to twelfth grade, which may not yet be considered during this expansion project. Currently, of course, our feeder systems apply to grades six through twelve and tie together Maize Middle School and Maize High School in the north feeder and Maize South Middle School and Maize South High School in the south feeder.
 
In addition to new construction, we will explore improvements and renovations and work to be good fiscal stewards of your tax dollars. We will address how much space to add and where to add it along with our educational priorities, financial efficiency, and transportation needs.
 
We will take this opportunity to consider other facility and space needs, including shared space for a swimming pool and/or large auditorium, remodeling needs, elementary playgrounds, classroom additions, and safety and security upgrades.
 
There certainly is not a single perfect option. Whatever we do is going to be difficult in some aspects. With our growth and limited funding, there are always some challenges.
 
I appreciate your ongoing support. If you have comments, questions, or suggestions, please e-mail facilityplanning@usd266.com.
 
Sincerely,
 
Dr. Chad Higgins, Superintendent of Schools