Students at Rhein Benninghoven Elementary School in Shawnee will get a close-up view of their new school under construction over the coming year.
Shawnee Mission schools Superintendent Jim Hinson said Monday that the school district plans to build the new version of Benninghoven on the same Caenen Avenue site as the existing one, beginning possibly by the end of the year and opening in 2017.
The district has spent the last few months looking for an alternative site as it sought to expand the campus of nearby Shawnee Mission Northwest High School.
“We can’t find any other location in close proximity, even though we tried and tried for that to happen,” Hinson said.
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Students will be able to continue attending classes at the current Benninghoven building until construction is completed. It is one of four schools — the other three are Crestview Elementary, Trailwood Elementary and Briarwood Elementary — being replaced with more energy-efficient buildings and paid for through the bond issue that voters approved in January. The district is also looking to build a brand new elementary school in the west attendance district, although a final site has not been selected, Hinson said.
The five new schools will each feature additional pre-kindergarten classes, beginning in the fall of 2016.
Hinson also confirmed that despite all of the budget drama in the Kansas Legislature last week, the district plans to stay the course on eliminating the fee for all-day kindergarten beginning this fall and reducing textbook fees for some students.
“We really don’t think the governor is going to cut anything in K-12,” he said.
Removing the fee will save parents $2,430 a year. The district will also no longer charge students in preschool through sixth grade $20 a year for their textbooks. Students in grades 7-12 will still pay $80 a year.
“These changes will take place beginning in August,” Hinson said.
In other business:
▪ John Douglass, district director of safety and security, reported to the board about a newly started effort looking for ways to connect needy students in the district and their families with existing community services that provide food, clothing and services. In addition, the district would look at serving other needs, such as teaching computer-illiterate parents how to help their students use their school-issued computers for homework.
“What I think we’re seeing is the development of a safety net that encompasses more than making sure they’re fed, more than making sure they have a warm coat but reaching out into the community to help mobilize the community into helping ourselves and helping each other,” Douglass said. “If we do that, I think we can create a support system that our teachers can reference children to and also help the parents learn how to help themselves and their children.”
▪ The Shawnee Mission Education Foundation presented the board with $20,875 to go toward the district’s Jump Start program at Bluejacket-Flint, Pawnee and Roesland elementary schools. The three-week program, held in July, is aimed at helping at-risk incoming kindergarten students learn basic skills to be ready for the start of school in the fall. The foundation also will buy a backpack of basic school supplies for all 251 of the district’s Jump Start students.
▪ Board members bid a happy retirement to Nancy Fritz, the outgoing president of the Kansas National Education Association for Shawnee Mission. Fritz, who has been with the district for more than 30 years and president of the teacher’s union for five years, is one of more than 100 Shawnee Mission teachers who agreed to retire this year.
“I believe it takes every one of us listening, discussing, working together to provide the best learning environment possible for the success of our students,” Fritz told the board.