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District leaders, board members continue discussion about growth

Maize Board of Education During the Oct. 8 Maize Board of Education regular monthly meeting, Dr. Chad Higgins, Superintendent of Maize Schools, discussed strategic facility planning.
He said that he and Richard Bell, Assistant Superintendent, Personnel and Operations, have met with architects and the district’s bond advisor to get ideas on timelines, building construction, prices, and more. Student enrollment growth has been twice what district leaders anticipated just a couple of years ago when board members and district leaders were researching boundary lines. There are opportunities to grow, including by adding spaces at Vermillion Elementary School where the Maize Early Childhood Center had been located before moving to its own building last year. There also may be options at Maize Middle School, which is approaching its capacity of 900 students.
Dr. Higgins said that district leaders will meet soon to talk about building use philosophy, which right now includes having kindergarten through fifth grade in all five elementary schools. Conversation and review could include whether to organize grades differently, how transitions would work, whether a different arrangement would work with boundary feeder systems, and whether to extend boundaries beyond middle and high schools to elementary schools. District leaders will review pros and cons and collect feedback from staff members, students, and parents. The district should not need to expand or add new elementary school space for at least a few years. Options include to expand using Capital Outlay or bond issue funds or buying portable units to use temporarily.
Dr. Higgins also said that Wichita State University engineering students and their professor reviewed Maize USD 266’s transportation efficiency for a class project. The resulting report includes some ideas to consider.
Funding was another issue addressed. Dr. Higgins explained that he lobbied hard last year against a cap from the state on total bond issue dollars districts statewide could pursue. In a sense, it pits districts against each other for that limited opportunity for school buildings students need. Without the state’s green light, districts including Maize would be unable to take a potential bond issue to local community members for consideration via a vote. Alternatives to adding the needed permanent space include overcrowding of current space or installing temporary portable structures. A concern would be safety and financial inefficiency.
Maize USD 266 also stands to receive less bond state aid as it has in the past. This means bond issues will cost the community more money than it would have prior to recent legislation. The bond issue voters approved in June 2015 included about 42 percent state aid, funds collected in property-tax wealthier communities. If the district passed a bond issue tomorrow, it would only receive 18 percent state aid, creating a much larger burden on local taxpayers, very detrimental to communities with a high percentage of residential property, such as Maize’s.
The Maize Board of Education meets next at 7 p.m. Nov. 12 at the Maize Educational Support Center, 905 W. Academy Ave. The meeting is open to the public.