Building plan addresses high growth rate in Piper’s enrollment
by Mary Rupert
A new high school at 131st and Leavenworth Road is on a special mail-in election ballot for the Piper School District.
The bond issue has a cap of $67.5 million to construct, equip, furnish and repair district buildings, including a new high school plus remodeling other school buildings.
Most ballots will be mailed to registered voters in Piper around May 20 and must be returned to the election office by noon June 9, said Election Commissioner Bruce Newby. He said if the ballot is not returned to the office by noon June 9, it does not count. He urged voters to send back their ballots right away after receiving them. If it is too close to the June 9 deadline, he said, voters may have to drop off the ballots in person at the Election Office, 850 State Ave., before noon June 9.
One of the prominent features of the school district improvements will be a new high school to be built at 131st and Leavenworth Road, on property the district has owned for about 10 years. The property is 75 acres on the south side of Leavenworth Road, currently used as agricultural land, said Piper Superintendent Tim Conrad. The target opening date would be the fall of 2018.
The new high school would accommodate up to 1,100-plus students, he said. Existing buildings would be reconfigured. Under the plan, the existing high school would become a middle school with grades 6 to 8, then the existing middle school would become grades 3 and 4, and the east elementary building would become just grade 5. The Piper elementary building would become kindergarten through second grade.
According to district information, the decision to build the high school all at once, and not in a phased-in approach, would take advantage of current construction costs and low interest rates.
A study has shown that the median price of an owner-occupied home in the Piper area is about $199,500, and with this bond issue, those taxpayers would pay from about $21 to $28 a month additionally, according to Conrad. It is about $1.10 a day, school officials pointed out.
Piper’s current mill levy is 59.536, which is higher than the Turner and Kansas City, Kan., districts, but lower than Bonner Springs, Basehor-Linwood, DeSoto-Mill Valley, Blue Valley, Spring Hill, Gardner, Olathe and Eudora, according to district information.
Studies have shown an average of about 5 percent increase in enrollment during the last five years in the Piper district, Conrad said. This year, there has been a 6.5 percent increase, and there is an anticipated 5 to 6 percent increase each year for the next 15 years, he said. The 6 percent increase this year equals about 115 extra students in the district, he added.
In another two or three years, the existing elementary school will be at capacity, and in another five years, the existing high school building will be at capacity, according to district information.
The discussion about the new school buildings began long before the school finance discussions this year. It has been about 15 months since the process started, with a facility advisory committee made up of patrons, surveys, information and opportunities for residents to comment.
The study group considered several solutions and settled on a new high school as the best long-term solution, according to district information.
The mail-in ballots are being sent to all persons who have been registered voters of the Piper district by May 11, Newby said. Anyone registering to vote between May 11 and 19 will have to specifically request a ballot, and ballots will not be sent automatically to them, he added.
Newby said that the wrong election information dates were on some information that has been mailed out to the district’s voters recently through a third party that has been handling a mailer. Those incorrect dates were not checked with his office first, he added.
More detailed information about the project can be found on the school district’s website at Piperschools.com.
Anyone with questions about the ballots may call the Election Office, 913-573-8500 or visit the website at www.wycokck.org/election.