Shawnee Mission enrollment reversing downward trend of previous years from early indications

Shawnee Mission School Superintendent Jim Hinson interacts with the crowd at the NEJC Chamber luncheon. Photo courtesy of NEJC Chamber.
Shawnee Mission School Superintendent Jim Hinson interacts with the crowd at the NEJC Chamber luncheon. Photo courtesy of NEJC Chamber.

Shawnee Mission schools have seen hundreds of new students enrolling in the district this school year. “We’re seeing just the opposite” of the trend from previous years, Superintendent Jim Hinson said Thursday. That means Shawnee Mission also could see multiple new schools built – not replacements, but additional schools – in the coming years, he added. That would be a significant reversal of the multiple school closings the district has seen in the past.

Enrollment won’t settle in until after Labor Day this year, Hinson said. A number of residential development projects planned in the district could have an upward impact on enrollment in future years and make it hard to predict. Hinson was speaking at the monthly luncheon of the Northeast Johnson County Chamber of Commerce. The event was held at the district’s Broadmoor Bistro, the site of the culinary arts program, which will move into the new administrative center on the Antioch Middle School property in a couple of years. Broadmoor also is host to Briarwood Elementary while it is being rebuilt.

Turning the tables on the crowd, Hinson asked them to respond to several questions. “What is one thing you would like us to be doing in the Shawnee Mission School District that we are not currently doing?” Rep. Barbara Bollier said all eligible students should be registered to vote at school. In response to another suggestion, Hinson said the district will be hiring a sustainability coordinator.

Hinson also asked the crowd if they had questions about things the district was still doing that may no longer be necessary, and what kind of things a “perfect” district would be doing.

Among the responses he received Thursday were:

  • Why are schools still taking summers off?
  • There should be a later start for high school students.
  • Why is there still a zero tolerance policy?
  • Students should progress at their own pace through school.
  • In a perfect world, early education opportunities would be provided by the school.
  • Why is middle school still two years?

To the last question, Hinson said Shawnee Mission is the only Johnson County district that does not do a sixth, seventh and eighth grade combination. He said the district will be talking about that this year. On early education, he said it is “absolutely” known that early education works.

Other highlights Hinson mentioned during his talk:

  • All elementary schools are getting the rollout of the district’s personal technology plan this year.
  • The introduction of middle school sports was a “phenomenal success.” He noted that the last year for middle school sports was when the Royals went to the World Series and they went again when it was reintroduced. He said the program is about creating a sense of belonging for students.
  • Fees for all-day kindergarten and elementary textbooks have been removed.
  • The $1.8 million price tag for expanded kindergarten was covered by reducing administrative payroll.
  • With a $397 million budget, the district should be able to find the kind of money needed to support those new programs.
  • The idea of eliminating nurses from schools is “stupid.” Hinson pointed out that the district has 30,000 people in the schools each day – a population larger than most Kansas cities – and generates multiple 911 calls.
  • “There is no teacher shortage in the Shawnee Mission School District. It is not an issue at all.”
  • The district is working on a comprehensive provider program to address the hundreds of homeless students in the district.

Regarding the homeless and economically disadvantaged population, Hinson said the foundation had raised money to pay for a student’s burial and had raised money to buy a grave marker for a student who died. “Those needs exist here,” he said.