Registered voters in the Shawnee Mission School District (SMSD) received ballots on Jan. 7 asking them to vote to pass a $223 million bond. A bond is money the school district borrows, like a loan, that taxpayers will pay back with interest. At East, the money from the bond will go towards new security upgrades, a renovated lunchroom and a better heating and cooling (HVAC) system.
“I’m confident that [the bond] will pass,” principal John McKinney said. “People recognize that schools are important to communities.”
McKinney envisions the new security upgrades including a foyer-type entry where visitors have to check in. A campus officer will be stationed there and visitors must scan an ID to enter.
“That tells us who is here, why they are here, who they are visiting and a basic background check,” McKinney said. “Not that it’s not safe now, but frankly, I don’t look at their ID. They could put down whatever they wanted and walk in the building.”
The East lunch room will get a makeover as well. It’s the smallest cafeteria of the five high schools, and it’s been 20 years since its last renovation. The cafeteria will be pushed out towards the courtyard and the raised areas on the north and south ends will be flattened. A student store will also be opened near the lunch room to be available to students during lunch periods.
The updated HVAC system will also strongly affect students and teachers, because the current system is old and unreliable.
“One room can be uncomfortably warm and another can be uncomfortably cold,” McKinney said. “We want students to be comfortable here and feel like they’re in a place that is conducive to learning and teaching.”
Bond money will also go towards a central aquatic center at Shawnee Mission South, which will serve as a place to hold swim meets for all SMSD schools. Other improvements will be added to the aquatic center as well, such as a wellness center for employees, students and community members.
“The key here is that it will help bring down our health insurance costs for district employees because we will be offering a wellness program,” Kansas State Representative Melissa Rooker said. “That helps with rates.”
If the bond passes, there will be no hesitation to enact the changes during this school year.
“I don’t think there will be any delay at all,” McKinney said. “Especially the HVAC, the security piece, I think they’ll get started on that immediately.”