Petition opposes Shawnee Mission aquatic center build at environmental lab; district says no site chosen yet

The SM Environmental Lab next to SM South.
The SM Environmental Lab next to SM South.

A petition has been started opposing the placement of the new Shawnee Mission School District aquatic center on land that is part of the Shawnee Mission Environmental Science Lab. The district, though, says the exact location of the new center has not been determined.

The petition drive now has gained more than 1,200 signatures under the heading “Save the SMESL and its prairie. Build the aquatic & fitness center somewhere else.” The aquatic center and an adjacent wellness center for district employees and students has been proposed as part of a $223 million bond issue that will go before voters in a January mail election. The bonds would fund a long list of other projects as well, including the rebuilds of several elementary schools.

The aquatic center’s location has only been identified as “tentatively” on the SM South campus during board meetings. The Shawnee Mission Environmental Science Lab has several acres adjacent to SM South on the east side of the school. Much of the acreage is wooded, but also contains a large section of prairie grass in the southeast corner. The lab property, although fenced off, also adjoins the Indian Creek trail.

District spokesperson Leigh Anne Neal Monday gave the following statement regarding the location of the centers:

“Initially, the district identified the campus at Shawnee Mission South as a possible location for the aquatic center and associated wellness center for students and staff.  No specific location on the campus has been identified at this time as a definitive site for the aquatic center.  Patrons will consider the bond in January, and if approved, the design process will inform the location for the aquatic center based on the needs of that project and also considering elements of other projects also included in the bond issue.  Multiple locations will be considered both on the campus of SM South, as well as other potential options to ensure the site that best serves the overall needs is selected.”

The petition is aimed at registered voters in the district, but has attracted a number of signatures from out of the area. The issue also has gained a social media presence recently with some posts elaborating on plans for enhancements to the lab as part of the project.