Boundary changes, middle school alignment, new school property among issues Shawnee Mission district exploring

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Shawnee Mission Superintendent Jim Hinson holding a forum at Hocker Grove last month.

During a media roundtable discussion Thursday morning, Shawnee Mission School Superintendent Dr. Jim Hinson said the district is looking for property that might be suitable for new schools. “Right now, it’s hard to find,” Hinson said.

The remark was in the context of talking about an early exploration of middle school re-alignment that could potentially see sixth graders moved to middle school. Hinson said educational value “has to drive the conversation” about any re-alignment.

A middle school change could free up space in some of the elementary schools but space is not currently sufficient to move the sixth graders into the middle schools. “If a change is made, it does affect capital,” Hinson said.

The Indian Creek and Broadmoor buildings will not be used for administration after the new administrative center is built and could be available for other uses. Asked if the sale of Mission Valley Middle School was a mistake in hindsight, Hinson said it is a “night and day difference” between what is happening in the district now and what was occurring when the Mission Valley debate was going on.

Shawnee Mission is believed to be the only Johnson County district with a seventh and eighth grade middle school system. The earliest date for a middle school re-alignment would be the 2017-18 school year.

However, a boundary change for some elementary schools is on the horizon for the 2016-17 year. He reiterated that the district is “going to have a conversation about boundaries this year.” That could be on the school board agenda soon after the first of the year.

Some of the elementary schools are out of room and enrollment is increasing. Hinson said he hoped boundary changes would only affect the elementary schools. The district is also “talking about the transfer process right now” and how if affects classrooms.

Hinson also talked about the upcoming meeting to discuss the Tax Increment Financing District for the Meadowbrook project in Prairie Village. “From my perspective that’s a great plan,” Hinson said. “The question becomes who funds it.” He said Prairie Village doesn’t have the means to fund it, but a question is why the county does not fund it without bonding. “Do you have the ability to write the check,” Hinson posed. In the Meadowbrook project, other taxing jurisdictions are getting the money rather than a private developer, he pointed out.

“Our goal is to be a community partner,” he said of the district’s review of TIF projects. And, he said the district had “really positive conversations” with the Prairie Village city administrator. But, he said TIF funding has an impact on the district’s ability to collect money for capital outlay and bond debt if it has to accommodate students from new construction projects. The district is working on guidelines about how it will assess TIF projects.