Prop R passes: What does it mean for KHS?

Robinson+Elementarys+welcome+sign+read+Thank+you+to+our+community+for+passing+Prop+R+this+week.

Anna Newland

Robinson Elementary’s welcome sign read “Thank you to our community for passing Prop R” this week.

Prop R passed with 68% of the vote on April 6, 2021. The passing of the ballot initiative sets in motion a chain of events to upgrade KSD’s schools, but what are the specifics, and what do they mean for KHS students? 

Prop R begins several projects, all of which are planned to be completed in 18-24 months. The first change KHS students will notice is a new welcome center and safety office. The welcome center is scheduled to be constructed near the Dougherty Ferry lot, close to the KHS baseball fields. A new safety office is being built on the Essex side, adjacent to the South Journalism building. The current main office will be used for grade-level offices, classrooms or a mix of both. These new buildings are designed to funnel visitors to a checkpoint before entering campus according to Stephanie Schmidt, chair of the Kirkwood Yes for R committee, which is the group responsible for getting Prop R passed. 

“With the world that we live in, we need [the main office] where whoever wants to can’t just walk into the heart of campus.” Schmidt said. “Right now you just walk through the middle of the campus [to get to the main office.]”

Kirkwood’s fire marshal inspects buildings and lets the users know when overcrowding becomes a concern in case of fire. According to student enrollment numbers and fire marshal Dennis Fischer’s occupancy limit, KHS’s student population is currently a fire concern. 

With the world that we live in, we need [the main office] where whoever wants to can’t just walk into the heart of campus.”

— Stephanie Schmidt

“Kirkwood High School is currently operating at 101% capacity,” Schmidt said. “If your population goes up [and] your space doesn’t also grow, you have to keep putting more kids into the classrooms that you have.” 

To solve this problem, Prop R adds fifteen new classrooms to the KHS campus. Dr. Mike Havener, KHS principal, said he makes encouraging students to try new things a priority. Having them turned away from classes they might enjoy is hard, but he hopes Prop R can make this less common.

 “It’s pretty difficult to say ‘do this, but not this year,’” Havener said. “I think we’re going to meet the needs of a lot of kids now [with the new classrooms].”

With these improvements, projected capacity stands at 87% in the 2025-26 school year, according to the Kirkwood Yes for R committee’s website. These classrooms will be designed to accommodate the large overflow of more than 80 kids that comes every year when students apply for FACS and Engineering/Technology courses.

Ben Willis, freshman, said that he loves Intro to Engineering and Design, his first engineering course. Willis also said he plans on becoming an aerospace engineer as an adult. 

I think we’re going to meet the needs of a lot of kids now [with the new classrooms].”

— Michael Havener

“It’d be great to know that I have a [greater] chance at becoming what I want to be,”  Willis said. 

Prop R also includes funding for enclosing KHS’s classroom buildings. Schmidt and Havener both hope enclosing connection corridors will make it harder for an intruder to enter the building because there would be less places to enter the building.

“Open campus building for high schools isn’t considered best practice anymore because of school shootings,” Schmidt said. “We need a campus that’s safer.” 

According to KSD, students can expect more abundant and higher quality security cameras on campus. Outdoor lighting will appear around the perimeter of the school in an attempt to make navigating campus at night easier.

“I don’t want to make a false promise here,” Havener said. “Cameras don’t stop things from happening. It helps us to see and monitor what’s going on.”

Open campus building for high schools isn’t considered best practice anymore because of school shootings.”

— Stephanie Schmidt

Havener emphasized the need for upgraded cameras as a way to understand what happened in situations like the racial graffiti crime, where three people entered the campus and used spray paint to vandalize KHS, NKMS and Nipher walls with markings that included racial slurs. Finally, students and teachers alike may enjoy the new air-conditioning and heating units.

“What Prop R does in the largest sense is preserves the Kirkwood tradition of excellence,” Schmidt said. “High school students showed up and threw themselves into the work [to campaign for Prop R], and I think what is really the most moving about that is that most of you won’t get as much of a benefit as, say, a preschooler. There’s a great saying that says ‘wise men build trees in whose shade they know they will never sit,’ and I really felt that [in] the high school students.”