Schools preparing for more students
The Basehor-Linwood and Tonganoxie school districts are facing the dual challenges of increased growth and a greater interest in home-schooling.
Basing their vision of the future on housing springing up in southern Leavenworth County and projections for even more growth, superintendents of those school districts said they expect more students to enroll in their districts in the future.
"The biggest single contributor to the infrastructure of a community is a solid education program," said David Pendleton, superintendent at Basehor-Linwood.
Capacity at the elementary, middle and high schools was about 1,800 before residents in the school district approved a $16.75 million bond issue.
When the construction and renovations financed by the bonds are complete later this summer, the district will have an additional elementary school, improvements at its existing buildings and capacity for about 2,500.
The district also has grown in the past couple of years with the addition of a virtual school. The school, which currently serves 325 children, delivers information for classes through the Internet. It has attracted home-schooling parents who might not be able to teach every subject to their children.
Pendleton initiated the program, one of 15 charter schools in Kansas and unique in the state because of the way information is communicated, because he sees the face of education and society changing.
"The home is going to be an entirely different place in five to 10 years," Pendleton said.
People are already able to shop and work at home electronically. Education is an extension of the services people will want to be able to access without traveling from their living room.
"What we're doing is preparing for that time," he said.
The virtual school also has been useful to students at the high school taking Advanced Placement courses for college credit.
And the virtual school won't eliminate the need for physical school buildings, as is evidenced by the building connected to the bond issue.
"There will always be a place for schools and school buildings," Pendleton said.
About 1,430 students are enrolled in the grade, middle and high schools in the Tonganoxie School District.
That's a decrease of almost 100 students from five years ago that Richard Erickson, superintendent, attributes to the growth of home-schooling and the classes taught at the Christian Church school in Tonganoxie.
The recent decline in enrollment has given the district a chance to reprioritize and re-evaluate programs. The classrooms freed by a smaller enrollment have also given the district the chance to improve technology and computer instruction.
The district is upgrading programs by spending about $100,000 a year on new textbooks and about $150,000 a year on new technology.
"A school district constantly has to strive to be on the cutting edge," Erickson said.
The district has made some minor changes to facilities, adding air-conditioning to the high school recently.
Erickson said the long-term goal is to add a new building on the 80 acres the district owns on the southeast edge of Tonganoxie. For that to happen, though, enrollments will have to rise back above 1,500 students.
"I'm optimistic that this will turn around."
Meanwhile, he's intent on improving the quality of education.
The high school now offers 24 hours of potential credit through AP classes and dual credit, up from three hours in the recent past.
And, the superintendent is proud of his teaching staff.
"They have kids as their first priority," Erickson said.
He also compliments the community's involvement in the schools.
"I've found the parents in this community to be very supportive."