USD 230 Communications Director
When the Spring Hill Board of Education members took part in a strategic planning effort in mid-2012, the group asked, “What do we stand for and what are the district’s goals?” The answers to those questions reaffirmed the district’s vision statement, “Maintain Small-town Values and Provide World-class Results.”
In addition, the board’s newly stated goals encompassed the successful completion of the district’s 2011 bond projects, enhancing students’ learning experience and ensuring the health and safety of students and staff. The goals, combined with the guiding vision statement, are setting the tone for construction projects, enhanced security measures, financial stewardship and curriculum changes.
In 2011, patrons of the Spring Hill School District passed a $39 million bond issue to address technology upgrades, maintenance needs and classroom capacity. Key projects have already been completed, including a district-wide wireless connectivity system that allows for a flexible learning environment in all schools. Students and staff also benefited from 1,000 new computers that replaced old machines as well as providing iPads to all teachers as a classroom tool, which was critical to supporting the vision of world-class education.
In addition, a growing list of maintenance needs was a high priority in order to maintain current facilities and protect the community’s investment. Last summer, new energy efficient heating and cooling systems replaced aging units at Spring Hill Elementary and Middle Schools, which have made classrooms much more comfortable for all users. While minor concrete projects have been tackled, a slate of parking lot and sidewalk updates will happen during the summer of 2013.
With a student population growing at 4 to 5 percent annually, classroom space was at a premium and a key component addressed by bond-related projects. In the summer of 2012, the expansion of Prairie Creek Elementary School was completed, which doubled the school’s capacity to help address the rapidly growing population in southern Olathe where the school is located.
Coming this summer, the district’s newest elementary school, which will serve grades kindergarten through 5, will open its doors to approximately 400 students and have enough capacity to house 528 children. This additional elementary space means that Spring Hill Elementary School will return to a preschool through grade 5 facility, after extensive interior renovations this summer. The final component to addressing classroom capacity needs is repurposing the current Intermediate School to be a part of Spring Hill Middle School (SHMS). The new SHMS North building will house sixth grade students along with district staff. The current SHMS building will serve grades 7 and 8, which are now averaging 170 students in a grade level.
Beyond interior renovations at existing buildings to ensure all students have similar learning spaces, significant security updates are in the works in response to a security audit that was completed in early 2012. These enhancements include more secure entryways, additional cameras, changes to locks and other recommended upgrades. The school board reviewed proposed interior renovations and security updates at its November meeting, and is moving forward with these projects thanks to the $3 million in savings achieved on other bond projects to date. In addition, district officials are working with local law enforcement agencies to review crisis plans in order to ensure the safety of students and staff.
Without the community’s support and keeping a close eye on finances, none of the progress listed above would have been possible. The bond issue, which did not increase the mill levy, has been carefully managed to achieve millions in savings that will now pay for additional renovations. District officials also were able to drop the overall mill levy for the fifth consecutive year thanks to continued enrollment growth and a modest 2% increase in the district’s assessed valuation. This efficient financial stewardship has allowed the district to address facility and technology needs, while ensuring classroom funding remains the priority.
In classrooms, a significant challenge and opportunity is facing the Spring Hill School District as well as other public school systems across the nation. A new set of academic standards has been adopted by nearly all states in the country, which are focused on better preparing students for college and careers. The new Common Core State Standards are already changing classroom instruction and must be fully adopted by the 2014-15 school year, as assessments related to those standards will be given for the first time. Ensuring that the school district makes this mark is imperative, not to post award-winning scores on tests, but to use the data in a way that assures students are getting a world-class education.
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