By Jessie Wagoner
Editor’s Note: This is the third in a series of articles exploring the proposed $112.8 million bond being presented to voters by McPherson Public Schools.
McPHERSON—Assessing the needs of public education, weighing community opinions and attempting to find a solution that meets the needs of thousands of students while also garnering voter approval is a big challenge.
In McPherson, there were 27 community members who accepted the challenge and agreed to serve on the community visioning group for the district. Another 25 individuals served on the staff visioning group, including four students.
The committee met nine times, for approximately 90 minutes per meeting. The district partnered with the DLR Group architectural firm and Hutton to facilitate the visioning group and develop a plan for improvement. Kevin Greischer with DLR Group said one of the highlights of working on the project so far has been working with the community visioning group and seeing how their vision has taken shape.
“It is always exciting at the end of the process of working with a community to see them come up with a solution,” Greischer said. “This is not the solution I thought was going to happen; I had no idea we would end up like this. I think it touches every student and teacher in the district and they do it in a financially responsible way. They said along the way that they wanted to make sure this was financially responsible. That was a priority; they didn’t want to overburden their neighbors, but they also wanted to do the right thing for the community.”
Following the community visioning meetings, a community survey was conducted to gather additional information. While the county has over 17,000 registered voters, the district conducted phone surveys with 300 randomly selected, head-of-household, registered voters living within the boundaries of McPherson Public Schools.
Greischer and Superintendent Shiloh Vincent agree that, early on in the community visioning process, one thing became very clear: maintaining the Roundhouse and performing arts center at McPherson High School was a top priority. In fact, the priority placed on the Roundhouse guided the decisions significantly.
“The community visioning group always went back to guiding principles,” Vincent said. “Safety and security was number one. And they also decided the Roundhouse was something they wanted to keep. Take that embodied money and energy and where those things are at and pick them up and you can’t pick them up. That would be another $20 million, $30 million.”
“It wasn’t financially responsible; I liked how you framed it,” Greischer said. “They looked at different plans and decided we have some nice stuff; we can find solutions to the problem areas, and this is the right solution for the community, a good use of current resources with a combination of new where needed.”
The historic Roundhouse, also called the “colosseum of high school athletics,” carries significant memories for longtime McPherson residents.
“Where do I start,” Deedra Pyle said. “From a little girl going to my first game to playing to watching my kids play there. Too many memories and pictures to count or post. The banners hanging, the Wall of Fame, the crowd noise […] there is nothing like it. It’s the most iconic high school gym in the State of Kansas. This picture says it all.”
“So many happy memories of the Roundhouse” Kay Kinnamon said. “Probably my best one was shortly after my dad died. We took Mom to the state championship, and Mac won. We came back and went to the celebration at the Roundhouse the next afternoon. It made her cry; she was so proud of Kurt.”
In addition to the nostalgia, reconstructing a gymnasium identical to the Roundhouse would be financially impossible for a district to undertake, so the idea of rebuilding isn’t feasible. In order to keep the Roundhouse, the high school has to stay where it is currently located.
Some community members question adding a middle school beside the high school when the lot is smaller than the recommended size for two schools, two fields and parking. Greischer and Vincent say the answer is simple: the decision saves money.
“They could go to a larger site, an 80-acre site or a 90-acre site for a middle and high school,” Greischer said. “But then you have to get all the utilities and roadways and things you have to do. You could spend 25% of your budget just to do a lot of moving ground. We talked about it, but it was significantly more dollars.”
Members of the community visioning group