If SMSD bond issue passes, Briarwood reconstruction process could relocate students for 2015-16 school year

Dr. Kenny Southwick and Deb Zila spoke to parents at Briarwood Monday night.
Dr. Kenny Southwick and Deb Zila spoke to parents at Briarwood Monday night.

If Shawnee Mission voters approve the $223 million bond issue the district is seeking through the mail-in election currently under way, district administrators won’t waste any time kicking off the projects the bond money would fund — which means Briarwood Elementary families may be taking their children to the Broadmoor Technical Center, 6701 West 83rd Street, for school when the new school year starts this August.

As part of the district’s road show answering questions about both the Local Option Budget and bond issue ballot questions before voters, Deputy Superintendent Kenny Southwick and Board of Education President Deb Zila spoke to SM East area parents in the Briarwood Elementary gym, where many of the Briarwood parents on hand had questions about how the proposed reconstruction of the building would impact their children in the coming year.

Southwick said Superintendent Jim Hinson’s preference would be to initiate construction as soon as possible, which would mean Briarwood students would need to be relocated for the coming school year.

“Briarwood is the first one out of the chute,” Southwick said of the reconstruction project.

Broadmoor is the most likely temporary home for Briarwood’s population and could be configured to accommodate the school’s current enrollment of 585 students, Southwick said. Currently, Broadmoor hosts the Shawnee Mission Bistro program as well as some special education programs and Johnson County Community College classes.

However, if the design and planning process for the Briarwood rebuild hasn’t proceeded far enough by the end of the current school year, the district may push the start-of-construction date back so that Briarwood students would be displaced the 2016-2017 school year instead.

One way or another, Briarwood parents will know where classes will be held next year before the current school year is out.

“You will know when they leave in May where they’re going next year,” Southwick said.

Southwick noted that there was no chance the district would move Briarwood students out of the building to Broadmoor in the middle of the coming school year. One way or another, the move would take place over the summer so students and families can adjust to the new space at the beginning of a fresh school year.

“We know we are going to be disrupting your lives, and we want to make that disruption as minimal as possible,” Southwick said. “We don’t want to be moving families from a building where they are comfortable to a new place where they aren’t comfortable in the middle of the year.”

While the goal would be to have the Briarwood students attend Broadmoor for just a single year, it is possible that they may be there for three semesters and would return to the Briarwood property after a Christmas break.

District architects will be looking to create a building that will comfortably accommodate 400-500 students — what Southwick described as the “sweet spot” for elementary school sizes. But the new building would have enough extra space in it to handle the school’s currently large population. Ultimately, however, the district will be looking to get Briarwood’s population down — a significant challenge given the regreening the area is seeing. Depending on how the demographic projections shake out, that could mean a boundary change for the school in the coming years.

Southwick said the new Briarwood building would be a largely new design. Parents will have the opportunity to provide input, but won’t be “at the drafting table with the architect.”

Briarwood’s recently reconstructed gymnasium would be the only portion of the building not torn down, with the new school constructed to attach to the gym facility.