The USD 383 school board changed its mind this week, but we’re glad it also explained why.
As part of the November school bond, in which voters passed $129.5 million in district improvements, the board had planned to build a warehouse facility on site at Manhattan High East Campus. But officials kept looking for a better location and on Wednesday voted to buy another property: Bailey Moving and Storage warehouse, 810 Levee Drive, for $1.1 million.
District officials seemed to spend a fair bit of time during the meeting explaining and justifying the change, which we think it good for two reasons.
First, the decision was made after a number of executive sessions, which is when board members are allowed to meet privately. Since the board is a public entity, it’s subject to the Kansas Open Meetings Act. It can only meet privately for very specific reasons outlined in state law. Those reasons are important, but so is transparency, even if after the fact.
Second, the board can issue bonds — supported by voters, who cast their ballots after hearing a detailed plan — but the board doesn’t have to stick to that plan. With school bonds, the board isn’t required to spend the money in a certain way, so long as it goes toward facility improvements. Still, it’s a show of good faith to taxpayers to make sure to justify any deviations from the plan.
All that said, we think the change makes sense. It’s a better deal. And as officials pointed out, the new site is in an industrial area, which is more practical for truck traffic.
It also keeps options open for the East Campus site. The district’s ninth-graders are there now, but they’ll move to the West Campus soon, leaving the other building vacant.
Board members and other officials have considered a number of plans for what to do with the East Campus, but now it seems they’re distancing themselves from it, or at least positioning the district to rely less on the property so they have the option to get rid of it later.
We think that’s reasonable.