Wichita BOE approves maintenance contract ahead of potential school shutdown

WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) Schools could be less than two weeks away from shutting down, and the Wichita School Board is taking steps to be prepared.

Lawmakers will meet in Topeka this week for a special session to respond to a Supreme Court order to make the school funding system more equitable. If no agreement is reached schools could be forced to close at the end of June.

Monday night, the Wichita school board approved a $50,000 contract to make sure district buildings don't fall apart if a shutdown happens. An outside company will be responsible for keeping an eye on the district's more than 100 buildings.

"Actually, it was a very easy issue to pass, I think that's probably the easiest level that we will look at," said school board president Betty Arnold.

It's a small sense of security as school district employees across Kansas are unsure what will happen to them come July 1.

"It's scary. For one, a lot of people don't know if they're even going to receive a paycheck," said Ken Hinkle, Facilities Director for Wichita Public Schools.

Hinkle says the contract will make sure district buildings are monitored if a shutdown happens.

"They'd have to do a walk through of every site, do a drive around of every site to make sure windows aren't broken, tree limbs aren't down," said Hinkle.

District employees who usually maintain buildings won't be able to do their jobs if schools close.

'We're kind of in a holding pattern right now. We don't know which way to go and I really don't have anything to tell my employees at this point," said Hinkle.

Hinkle says he started planning for a shutdown months ago. He's optimistic lawmakers will find a way to keep schools open, but wants to be prepared for any outcome.

"Until they get things figured out at the state level we won't know what's going to happen," said Hinkle.

Arnold said coming up with a contingency plan for the district's buildings is just one part of the plan they will need if a shut down happens.

"Not only our buildings, but our Latchkey program," Arnold said. "What's going to happen with our software because if we have to close the computers down we almost lose everything and have to start all over."

Arnold said if lawmakers don't act quickly, it's like the board will have to call an additional meeting later this month for more planning.

The $50,000 contract would not cover any repairs that would need to be done during a shutdown.