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Kansas City, Kansas, Replaces Elementary School, Seeks Bond For More Upgrades

Maria Carter
KCUR 89.3
Frank Ruston Elementary School students will have their first day of classes in the new building on Monday.

At Frank Rushton Elementary, students aren’t just getting new boxes of pencils and crayons. They’re getting a whole new school.

"Compared to the other building, it’s really nice,” says parent Ayesha Marks. “I like the library upgrade with the computer and books and everything.”

“It’s awesome,” says third-grader Gianni Ramos of the school. “It’s much bigger and has more space.”

A lot more space. The old building, near the intersection of 43rd and Rainbow Ave., was jam-packed.

The gym doubled as both cafeteria and music room. The nurse’s office was in a cubicle in the hall.

Credit Maria Carret / KCUR 89.3
KCUR 89.3
The library in the new building includes several reading areas, a computer lab, and more space for books.

That’s not the case anymore. There’s a gym, a designated nurse’s office, a music room and an art room.

“There’s enough space. We were really crammed in before,” says fifth-grade teacher Laura McNellis. “Now we have an excess amount of classrooms. We can take in more students.”

Those mobile classrooms gave the school some extra room, but they also presented challenges. The mobile classrooms were noisy and often too hot or too cold.  “There was no water there, so kids had to go into the building to use the bathroom or get a drink,” says principal Mary Welsh.

The Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools paid $15 million for Frank Ruston Elementary, using money set aside over the years from its capital outlay fund. The district has paid for three other elementary schools this way over the past three years.

That could soon change, though. Last week, the KCK school board approved putting a $235 million bond measure on the November ballot. If okayed, the bond issue would not require a tax increase.

“While we have worked hard to maintain and upgrade our facilities, the average age of our school buildings is 57 years old, and some of our facilities are beyond their functional life and need to be replaced,” says David Smith, the district’s director of communications and governmental relations.

The KCK district recently completed a facilities study. It identified more than $220 million in deferred maintenance.

If approved, the money raised from the bond issue would be used for some of those maintenance projects as well as the demolition and reconstruction of two elementary and two middle schools and renovations at all of the district’s high schools to create career academies.

Maria Carter is the News Director at KCUR 89.3.

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