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Wichita, Kansas — After two years of study, and a lot of public controversy the school board in Wichita has voted to build a new Southeast High School. USD 259 school board members voted Monday night.
Right up to the vote, several Wichita residents continued to rally to keep the “old” Southeast High open at its current location.
“Tonight, Wichita can lead by example again, by saying to all of America, we believe in neighborhood schools,” said activist Don Landis. “And we believe in investing in low-income neighborhoods. We believe our investment will keep them viable, working neighborhoods to the benefit of everyone in Wichita.”
Wichita school board members, before the vote, talked about the benefit of keeping Southeast High where it is now, and the benefits of building a new school at 127th and Pawnee.
But when it became apparent the school board was considering building a new school in a new location, about a dozen in the audience walked out in protest.
“You know they hoodwinked the community. They lied continuously. And I could not sit there and continue to listen to those lies,” explained Activist Mary Dean. “I mean, this is not what they promised the community.”
School board president Lynn Rogers says they have been listening to the community all along.
“We have really engaged the community,” said Rogers. “We have listened. This is not an easy decision.”
The school board voted unanimously to close Southeast High at the current location to build a school at a new location.
“Walk into any of our new schools and you will see the excitement and energy of our teachers and students that walk into them,” said board member Connie Dietz. “One example is the new Northeast magnet. And the students were worried about moving and didn’t want to leave the current building. And when walked into that (new) building and they absolutely loved it.”
The school board says the current building housing Southeast High could be used by the Wichita Area Technical College. They will also consider using the building for USD 259 administration.
“It will keep something in the neighborhood,” says Dietz. “The building will be used. We have asked the asked the administration to also look at moving administrative facilities there. I think that building will be even more vibrant than it is now.”