A $1.5 million Avedis grant is one step closer to becoming a dream come true for Shawnee Middle School as school, city and Avedis officials broke ground Tuesday. The many-faceted project, at 4300 N. Union Ave., will furnish the school system and community with a nature learning center, walking trails, multi-purpose/tennis courts and sidewalks.

Note: An in-depth look at how the partnership of Shawnee Public Schools with the Avedis Foundation and the City of Shawnee is striving to significantly enhance the community and area children by providing a multi-faceted project geared at better health, wellness and quality of life.

A $1.5 million Avedis grant is one step closer to becoming a dream come true for Shawnee Middle School as school, city and Avedis officials broke ground Tuesday. The many-faceted project, at 4300 N. Union Ave., will furnish the school system and community with a nature learning center, walking trails, multi-purpose/tennis courts and sidewalks.

Board of Education member April Stobbe, opening the event, told the crowd, “It is because of the Avedis Foundation that we are here today –– in their generosity in making this project happen. We greatly appreciate them. This is a project that is going to benefit our whole community, so we have lots of things to be excited about.”

Shawnee Public Schools Superintendent Marc Moore lauded Avedis in its commitment to the venture.

“We appreciate the Avedis Foundation for believing in this project, believing in Shawnee Public Schools, and believing in us as individuals,” Moore said. “A lot of you may not know that discussion on this project started about a year before it began. And with that, it was identifying what the values are for the Avedis Foundation and meshing those with the values of Shawnee schools. I think it's just a win-win project,” he said.

“I've worked on and looked at bond projects,” Moore said, “and a tennis court –– which is great –– and walking trails for safe walks to school would not happen without Avedis, because you're going up against classroom space, roofing and HVAC, so thank you on that.”

Moore said, “We want whoever walks in the door to have a great experience, … we want diversity and we believe that public education is the number one way to do that, and this project supports our mission in it.”

An outdoor classroom brings the educational experience to life. It moves from a secondary text or a lecture to something that's primary, he said.

“Kids can gets their hands in it, they can feel it, they can see it –– it's multi-sensory –– and we think that's a great thing,” he said.

Once the project is complete, Moore said the community is encouraged to use the facilities.

“One of the key things about the project was that it's not only for school use, but also for community use,” he said.

Other than Optimist Park, this will be the only area that can be a shared use and be open to the community, he said. “We think this city's better when our agencies work together, and we sure appreciate what (the city) has done, as well,” he said.

Moore said the design team will be sitting down with Renaissance Architects in the next month to work out the specific details of what will be laid out. It's going to take a team effort,” he said.

Michelle Briggs, Avedis Foundation President and CEO, said the vision of Avedis is to improve the health, wellness and quality of life for the people of Pottawatomie County.

“What better way to do it than to build multi-purpose courts, trails –– that are open not only to the public, but also to our children, and we feel one of our best strategic investments is education at any level,” she said.

“If we can plant some seeds early in life for healthy bodies and healthy minds, then we are all for it. We are excited for this project –– not only will our children be able to walk safely to our school, but also our community and children will be able to play in outside classrooms, trails, and courts,” Briggs said.

Shawnee City Manager Justin Erickson expressed the city's gratitude for the project and for Avedis, as well as school leadership and staff.

“At last night's City Commission meeting, we authorized staff to solicit bids for the sidewalk portion of this project,” he said, “so, in about 60 days, hopefully, we will be able to have a contractor on-site to begin that portion of the project –– which will extend the public sidewalk from its current terminus at the school all the way south to MacArthur Street. That will be an incredible addition to allow a safe route to school and for community members.”

He said the city looks forward to continued sidewalk improvements.

The grant

Right before National Walk to School Day, on Oct. 6, at a Shawnee Board of Education meeting, Briggs announced that Shawnee Public Schools’ Middle School Project was the recipient of a $1.5 million grant.

Briggs said, to date, it was the largest grant given by the foundation –– double the amount of any single grant previously doled out by the group.

The funds will allow increased educational and wellness opportunities for students and the community through the construction of the Shawnee Middle School multi-purpose/tennis courts, walking trails, sidewalk and nature play and learning place project.

At that meeting, Board of Education member Larry Walker said he couldn’t say enough about his appreciation for the Avedis Foundation and its grant to the school.

“Supporting a project of this caliber validates the mission of the Avedis Foundation,” Briggs said. “We feel that the Shawnee Middle School Project will positively impact the lives of students and residents, with health benefits that extend well into the future.”

The City of Shawnee has provided, at no charge, engineering, bidding, contracting, and construction management for the sidewalk portion of the project, an act that lowers the cost of the sidewalk installation by 11 percent. The sidewalks will create an uninterrupted sidewalk along Union Street for 2.25 miles.

This is the second grant awarded to Shawnee Public Schools. The school system’s first grant was awarded in November 2013 when Avedis gave $110,500 in funds for two projects: a $21,000 grant was for the Parents as Teachers program, and a $89,500 grant was given for security camera installation at the high school, middle school, elementary schools and early Childhood center.

For more information, visit avedisfoundation.org.

 

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