Antioch demolition under way to clear space for new $30-plus million Center for Academic Achievement

The new Center for Academic Achievement will house operations currently spread out across four administration buildings for the Shawnee Mission district.
The new Center for Academic Achievement will house operations and student programming currently spread out across four district administration buildings.

Demolition crews are in the process of tearing down Antioch Middle School to make way for a new central administration center for the Shawnee Mission School District that district leaders say will both increase operational efficiencies and provide students with modern facilities for special education programming.

The new 131,000 square foot Center for Academic Achievement was conceived as a way to consolidate administrative operations currently spread across four disparate facilities — the McEachen Administration Center, Broadmoor, Arrowhead and Indian Creek — into a single location.

Final building plans that are expected to be submitted to the city of Overland Park for approval this week show a two-wing structure split between administrative and student use. The east wing of the modern glass-and-metal facility will primarily house student programming, including the new kitchen and bistro for the culinary arts program, biotechnology laboratories, a video production studio and teaching space for Project Lead the Way, among other programs.

The west wing is primarily reserved for district administrative functions, with office space, meeting rooms and a new board room. It will also house a fitness center and medical clinic, where the district plans to have medical staff on site available to see employees on the district’s health insurance plan — part of a wellness initiative intended to reduce health care costs. The grounds of the property, which border Milburn Country Club, will also have a series of walking trails employees will be encouraged to use.

A connecting area between the two wings of the building will feature a cafe and public gathering area, and an atrium that could house events or presentations with audiences of 250 or so.

Deputy Superintendent Kenny Southwick said the motivation for the project, which will use eco-friendly design, was to foster interaction and collaboration among administration as well as students from across the district.

Having departmental staff split up among different buildings under the current arrangement can make coordinating meetings and communications difficult, he pointed out. For example, the top staff overseeing curriculum and instruction for the district are currently split up between McEachen and Indian Creek. He likened the district’s motivation to bring staff together to that of Sprint, which consolidated operations that had been spread out across the Kansas City area to a central campus several years ago.

“This is around the concept…of looking at the efficiencies of trying to bring everybody under house, under one roof, and creating that collaborative atmosphere where everybody across the entire district worked together,” Southwick said.

The project will not be cheap, with total construction and furnishing costs estimated at between $30 and $40 million before bids have gone out. (Southwick said the goal was to keep the cost at $35 million or below). But administrators said the district’s capital outlay budget — funds that cannot be used for operational or classroom expenses — can accommodate the cost, and that they determined the benefits to students and administrators were worth the investment. No funds from the bond issue approved by district voters in January will be used for the project.

Bob Robinson, the executive director of capital projects for the district, said the anticipated completion date for the new facility was late 2016 or early 2017. Administrative staff would begin moving into the center shortly thereafter, leaving Arrowhead, Indian Creek and Broadmoor almost entirely vacant of district-level staff. The district will consider what to do with those properties — including using them as temporary homes for students displaced by possible future reconstruction projects — as opportunities arise.

The Center for Academic Achievement will be the first administration facility the district has built since 1970, when it dedicated the McEachen center shortly after district unification in the late 1960s.

Demolition of Antioch Middle School began Tuesday to make way for the new Center for Academic Achievement.
Demolition of Antioch Middle School began Tuesday to make way for the new Center for Academic Achievement.