by Mary Rupert
With Superintendent Cynthia Lane’s remark, “Let the building begin,” a groundbreaking was held today for a new middle school to be named after long-time Kansas City, Kansas, Board of Education member and educator Gloria Willis.
Board President Brenda Jones thanked the voters of the school district for approving the new middle school. The groundbreaking for the new Gloria Willis School was located behind the existing Coronado Middle School at 1735 N. 64th Terrace.
Voters approved a $235 million bond issue in 2016 that will not cause a tax increase, according to district officials. It is used for this project, and improvement projects throughout the district.
The new Willis school will draw students from both the existing Coronado and the West middle school areas, according to school officials.
“I know Mrs. Willis is looking down, smiling, and just so appreciative that we’re making a building, not only in her name, but the fact that it’s for the young people, that they have adequate and up-to-date facilities to be educated in,” Jones said at the groundbreaking ceremony today.
The Willis school groundbreaking was one of three held today in the school district. Groundbreakings for improvements at Stony Point North Elementary School, 8200 Elizabeth Ave., and for Claude Huyck Elementary School, 1530 N. 83rd St., also were held today.
Construction manager for the Willis school is J.E. Dunn and the project architect is Hollis and Miller Architects. The new two-story Willis school will be 127,000 square feet and will have 30 classrooms, according to district officials. It will have space for 750 students. It will have a science room, prep area, open collaboration space and a media center, according to district information.
Construction is set to begin this spring, with the school completed in time for the 2019-2020 school year, according to officials.
Dr. Kelli Mather, chief operating officer for the Kansas City, Kansas, Public Schools, said a community vision team helped identify the needs for the school district.
J.D. Rios, a former Kansas City, Kansas, Public Schools administrator who worked on the community vision team, said it was a wonderful occasion to remember the dedication of a true professional educator, Gloria Willis.
“She wasn’t just about students and their achievement, but she was about community,” Rios said. “Education is defined as a partnership for success, and our community is rallying around our Board of Education, our professional staff and our students to provide the best possible facilities so that we can have a truly well-educated student population that will lead us as a community into a bright and prosperous future.”
Dr. Lane said it was the beginning of a wonderful, new future for the young people. She thanked the board and community for approving the bond issue.
“We believe you can become anything you choose with focus and effort,” Dr. Lane told the students. “We do believe in you.”
Gloria Willis believed in the students of Kansas City, Kansas, she said.
“We know our future is nothing but bright because you are talented, you are innovative and you will change the world,” Dr. Lane said.
According to school district information, Stony Point North Elementary School improvements will include a 6,400-square-foot addition, four classrooms and a new office area with a secure entryway. The Stony Point project completion date is July of this year.
The Claude Huyck Elementary School improvements include a 9,500-square-foot classroom addition, six classrooms, a special education room and restrooms, according to district information. There also will be a 1,200-square-foot office renovation, new secure entry vestibule, and upgraded office and work rooms.