DeSoto school district knows Eudora’s burden of growing pains
In 1997, the neighboring DeSoto School District faced problems similar to those the Eudora School District is facing today. DeSoto High School had 657 students, nearing its 750-student capacity.
DeSoto Deputy Superintendent Sharon Zoellner said it was obvious something needed to be done.
"We did run out of room," Zoellner said. "We were a little tight. Last year before the split, we had 757."
Anticipating more growth, the DeSoto School Board sent a $37.6 million bond to the voters. The bond covered the building of a new 750-student high school, Mill Valley High. It also included an upgrade to DeSoto High and provided funding for a new elementary school.
Currently, Mill Valley has 533 students and DHS has 351.
Finding voter support for the bond required a plan. Zoellner said the board decided to get school patrons involved, letting them take the lead in spreading the word of how badly the extra funds were needed. She said the formation of a volunteer group was essential to the passage of the bond.
"We put into place a patron group that went out and sold the issue on our behalf," Zoellner said. "School districts are not permitted to use funds to ask people to vote yes."
The voluntary group went out into the community. Its members went door to door, hosted forums at parent teachers association meetings, organized neighborhood meetings and posted information on the district's web site, Zoellner said.
Though the $37.6 million bond issue passed, it did so with a slim margin. Nearly 51 percent, or 2,035 people voted in favor of the bond, compared to the 1,973 people or 49.2 percent who voted against it.
Despite their similarities, the Eudora and DeSoto school districts do have some striking differences. The DeSoto district is 100 square miles and includes 60 percent of Shawnee, allowing for greater revenue. Eudora's school district covers 53 square miles.
The total assessed valuation of the DeSoto district is $165 million, compared to the Eudora School District which has an assessed valuation of just more than $32.7 million.
Nearly three years passed from the time the bond was first introduced to DeSoto voters to the time the new high school was opened.
Having spent a lot of time on bond issues since coming to the district 12 years ago, Zoellner said a similar time frame could be expected should Eudora voters approve funding for a new school.
"If you were to decide today to have a bond issue, you could probably do it in November, but you're pushing the timeline," she said. "Probably a three-year timeline from start to finish is fairly accurate."