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USD 437 Bond Election asks to build another middle school and high school innovation center

Land owned by Auburn-Washburn School District on SW Urish Rd. next to the Mission Township Fire...
Land owned by Auburn-Washburn School District on SW Urish Rd. next to the Mission Township Fire Station.(WIBW)
Published: Jan. 28, 2022 at 6:03 PM CST
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - After more than 30 strategic planning and nearly 500 stakeholder group meetings over the last two years, the Auburn-Washburn School District is looking to innovate and expand its schools in this year’s bond election.

USD 437 School Board Member Tara Dimick said, “This is a really exciting opportunity for Auburn-Washburn but it’s also a really necessary opportunity. It’s one we need to have.”

Washburn Rural Middle School is the largest middle school in the state of Kansas with only 7th and 8th graders roaming the halls.

Superintendent Dr. Scott McWilliams said they want to add 6th graders by way of building another middle school on SW Urish Road beside the Mission Township Fire Station.

Just one of the changes on this year’s Bond Election ballot.

“Our elementary schools are Pre-K through 6th, however by transitioning those 6th graders up, we would have a better capacity to meet the needs of our Pre-K through five elementary schools,” he said.

Auburn-Washburn has owned the land since 2007 in anticipation of having to expand.

“The land is purchased, it is sitting ready to go for new construction if our bond election passes,” said McWilliams.

This year’s Bond Election features two questions on the ballot. They will be mailed to registered voters on March 23 and will need to be returned to the county’s election office by noon on April 12.

The first is up to $145 million to pay for the new middle school, adding early childhood classrooms, re-purposing elementary spaces, safety upgrades and maintenance to buildings, and adding an innovative center to the high school.

The innovation center is something Dimick believes will help students while promoting staying local to use those skills.

“I’m big into small business and the big business and making sure that our kids stay here and that they’re excited about the work they do and I think that providing them these opportunities to test drive and maybe even work with our own business community is something our community needs as a whole and it’s something that our students will really be able to enjoy,” she said.

Question two is not to exceed $15 million by adding a pool at the high school. It’d be used for the school’s swim team, physical education course, special needs classes, and community use.

“There are a lot of opportunities for young kids to take swimming lessons. As an example, we have senior citizens that could be able to use the pool after hours,” said McWilliams.

The combined total price: 160 million with property taxes at $15.23 a month.

If both pass, the district would remain in the bottom half of area schools in tax rates.

“It’s a big bond issue and we need a lot of money to make the changes we need to make. It’s an entire middle school we’re building and so of course that’s impactful but what we’re hearing is it’s about time. It’s kind of been that moment that everybody’s been waiting for.”

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