Jennifer Walleman | Staff Writer
In August 2013, Unified School District 207 broke ground on the new state-of-the-art MacArthur Elementary School. Three years later, the school is complete, teachers are in their classrooms and students start Aug. 10. A ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the school opening occurred Aug. 3 in the school’s atrium.
The school, built by Titan Built LLC, contains 38 grade-level classrooms, art and science classrooms, two computer labs, media studio, library, gymnasium, auditorium, staff fitness center and a FEMA-certified tornado shelter in addition to geothermal heating and cooling and extensive LED lighting.
“Each year, we have the amazing opportunity to educate over 1,700 military-connected children in grades preschool through ninth grade,” said Keith Mispagel, superintendent of USD 207. “We approach this opportunity with focus and professionalism, accepting nothing less than academic excellence. The building you are in today represents a new location to achieve our goals.”
Mispagel said the school district is unique because it is housed completely on federal property. The new school, as well as other district facilities and capital purchases, is made possible solely through receiving Impact Aid funding from the U.S. Department of Education, with strong support from the Kansas congressional delegation in Washington, D.C., Mispagel said. Over the course of eight years, the district saved up enough Impact Aid to pay for the school completely with no debt.
“We celebrate not just a building, but opportunities that will continue to enhance the education we provide,” Mispagel said. “I would put our teachers and staff up against any in the country for their skills, professionalism and heart they bring to the classrooms every day. Students will achieve new heights.”
The opening of the new school represents commitment to military-connected students, parents, education and the men and women who serve, Mispagel said.
USD 207 strives to have a lasting positive effect on students and families knowing full well that more than half of the families enrolled in district schools stay only one year, he said.
“Our efforts are to ignite excitement for school, for learning, for the future,” Mispagel said.
Retired Col. Myron Griswold, school board president, thanked those who contributed to the development of the school, including Kansas congressional representatives, district and Garrison staff, leadership and planning and construction teams, and he gave a brief history of General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, the school’s namesake.
MacArthur served with competence, confidence, courage and commitment, Griswold said.
“As the namesake for this superb new school, General MacArthur can serve as a lodestar for MacArthur staff and faculty as they, in turn, inspire, guide and facilitate the education of their students, making their educational experience exciting and fun and contributing to the district’s vision of creating successful lifelong learners and future leaders with 21st century skills,” he said.
Page 2 of 3 - Kirby Brown, deputy to the commanding general of the Combined Arms Center and Fort Leavenworth, also spoke during the ceremony and said he was impressed with how the district saved the funds to pay the entirety of the school and shows the commitment to military families.
“I don’t know how they did it, but it was one of the most amazing achievements,” Brown said. “On top of that, (they) deliver a best value. As you tour this building, you’ll come away thinking this is an absolutely cutting edge, best value, 21st century educational facility. This is how you support soldiers and their families.”
After the ribbon cutting, guests were allowed to tour the building.
Tyler Fowler, principal of MacArthur, said he’s been working a few late nights lately preparing for school. Every five minutes, he said, he saw families driving by the school and taking photos.
“I think it’s definitely been well received,” he said.
Fowler said teachers were able to move their things over to the new school at least once a week in May, which made preparation for the start of school easier.
Fowler gave tours of the school after the ceremony and said that everybody he’s seen has said what a great building it is.
“It’s just such a fantastic place,” he said. “It was exciting for me to see kids walking around today because we haven’t seen that yet so having the hallways full of kids has been really cool.”
Rich Holden, chief financial officer of the district, said there are still a few finishing touches to be made to the building including exterior work like the gate and sidewalk area set to be completed before the start of school.
Anne Hattok, TEAMS lab teacher, said her new room was functional.
“It’s bigger (with) more storage,” Hattok said. “The arrangement will allow for the kids to be a lot more engaged and involved.”
Kelsey Morano, 8, is going into the third grade at MacArthur. Even though she said she’s nervous about moving from Bradley Elementary School, she said she was excited about the new building and the fact that it has an elevator.
“I think this is the biggest school I’ve gone to,” she said.
Kelsey’s mother, Amy Morano, said she was excited that Kelsey didn’t have to be bused to school anymore.
“This will be a nice treat,” Morano said. “She can walk or ride her bike every day.”
Connor Pray, 6, is going into the second grade at MacArthur. He just moved to Fort Leavenworth with his parents Capt. Adam Pray, a Command and General Staff Officer Course student, and mother, Shelly Pray.
Page 3 of 3 - Connor said he was impressed with the new school.
“It’s cool,” he said.
The family drove by the school the day before the ribbon cutting to check it out, but got lost until they saw the school.
“Once we got to the top of the hill, it’s so big it was easy to find,” Adam Pray said.