Unique school would save money for each organization, provide improved learning environment for students at new Summit Technology Academy / Missouri Innovation Campus
The Lee’s Summit R-7 Board of Education and the University of Central Missouri (UCM) Board of Governors recently approved an agreement setting the stage for the two organizations to develop a unique shared facility designed to serve both high-school and college students.
UCM and Lee’s Summit R-7 are partners with Metropolitan Community College (MCC) and a number of industry-leading businesses in the nationally recognized Missouri Innovation Campus (MIC). Through the MIC, located within R-7’s Summit Technology Academy, the partners are reshaping the way students experience education.
The Missouri Innovation Campus was launched in fall 2012 and has continued to receive regional and national recognition for dramatically reducing the time required to receive a college degree while also significantly decreasing the cost of higher education for students and their families. In summer 2013, President Barack Obama visited UCM’s Warrensburg campus, highlighting the Missouri Innovation Campus and the collaborative effort among R-7, UCM, MCC and businesses. The program, which has received state grants, has also been touted by Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon as a model partnership.
The MIC students, who attend Summit Tech during their junior and senior years of high school, earn their associate degree from MCC at approximately the same time they receive their high-school diploma. MIC students will earn a four-year bachelor’s degree from UCM just two years after high-school graduation. More remarkably, these students graduate from college with little to no student debt while participating in high-tech paid internships. The internships combined with MIC coursework provide the students with highly sought-after skills for well-paying careers in technology fields.
UCM’s board members approved the lease agreement Dec. 13, and the R-7 board approved the agreement Dec. 18. Through the legal agreement, R-7 and UCM commit to coordinating and cooperating with one another in order to construct and operate a shared educational facility that will house R-7’s Summit Technology Academy, UCM programs currently located in the university’s Summit Center and the Missouri Innovation Campus.
“Partnerships featuring this level of involvement are considered rare among higher education and public school districts,” Dr. David McGehee, R-7 superintendent, said, “and we have been especially pleased with what has already been accomplished by working together at Missouri Innovation Campus. Through the lease agreement for the new facility, we have the opportunity to save money, trade our leased space for a facility our district will own and design a learning environment that fits the needs of today’s students and students of the future.”
The agreement is contingent upon the purchase of land for the shared facility. Both R-7 and UCM will work together on planning for the facility with both organizations approving the final design.
Through the partnership, Lee’s Summit R-7 will purchase and own the facility with UCM agreeing to pay a base rent reflecting 60 percent of the overall cost of the land purchase, financing expense, building design and construction of the facility, amortized over a 20-year lease term. UCM programs would use approximately 60 percent of the educational facility with R-7 using approximately 40 percent.
“Since opening the MIC, the university and the R-7 School District have broken new ground demonstrating innovative ways to accelerate the time it takes for students to complete a degree, provide students with job-ready skills, and help them graduate with little or no debt,” said UCM President Charles Ambrose. “We’re making tremendous progress, but we have a lot left to do. Looking toward the future, and our joint vision for expanding opportunities at the MIC, we couldn’t ask for a better partner.”
About Summit Technology Academy and Missouri Innovation Campus
The R-7 School District opened Summit Technology Academy in 1999 with the goal to prepare students for college and high-demand careers. Over the past 15 years, Summit Tech has grown from just 26 students in one program to a school offering 14 programs and serving approximately 450 students from 11 school districts. Students are enrolled in courses such as information technology, networking, nursing, international studies, digital media, education and engineering. Sending school districts from the metropolitan area pay tuition to Lee’s Summit R-7 for their students who enroll in R-7’s Summit Technology Academy programs.
The Missouri Innovation Campus is a component of Summit Technology Academy, and both are outgrowing the current facility, located within the Summit Technology Campus business complex. The R-7 School District has leased space for Summit Tech at a favorable rate due to a tax abatement for the local business center that dates back to the late 1990s. This low-cost lease will expire when the business facility comes onto the tax rolls in 2018, and R-7 officials have been looking for an alternative that will be both more affordable and designed specifically for the educational programs.
Since early in 2014, leaders from Lee’s Summit R-7 and UCM have been discussing a shared facility that would provide a solution to the growth challenges faced at Summit Technology Academy and Missouri Innovation Campus as well as at the UCM Summit Center. Through the agreement approved by both R-7 and UCM governing boards during December, the two educational organizations would share space and equipment, saving money for the local school district and the university. Plans call for the approximately $40 million school to be funded by both organizations with Lee’s Summit R-7 paying approximately $16 million and UCM paying approximately $24 million (through its lease). R-7 and UCM would share in the cost of operating and maintaining the facility.
No-tax-increase bond issue under discussion
Within the last few months, Lee’s Summit R-7 officials began discussing the possibility of including this new Summit Technology / Missouri Innovation Campus facility on an April 7, 2015, no-tax-increase bond issue. Preliminary plans call for the district to present a $40 million no-tax-increase bond issue to voters. The issue would include around $16 million for Summit Technology Academy / Missouri Innovation Campus, approximately $21 million for facility improvements and deferred maintenance at all schools and $3 million for contingencies and fees for all construction projects.
The list of potential school improvements and deferred maintenance projects was developed using information gathered in a recent architects’ audit of all schools, through recommendations from principals of each school and after receiving feedback from several community groups. During fall 2014, the bond issue proposal was presented to three major parent and community groups – PTA Council, R-7 Citizens’ Advisory Committee and R-7 Business Roundtable – with the groups providing input at their meetings. Feedback from the community members indicated that the bond issue would be favorably received by the public.
The school projects included in the proposed bond issue would positively impact each school and include items such a building improvements related to classroom instruction, Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) access, safety and security, health and wellness, special education and playground equipment and surfaces.
The proposed bond issue is scheduled to appear as a decision item on the R-7 Board of Education’s Jan. 22 meeting agenda. If approved by the Board members, it would appear on the April 7 ballot. If endorsed by at least four-sevenths of Lee’s Summit R-7 voters, construction on the Summit Technology Academy / Missouri Innovation Campus would begin soon after the election with the new school opening in August 2017. The facility improvements and deferred maintenance projects would also begin soon after the election with the majority of projects complete by either fall 2015 or fall 2016.
If the proposed no-tax-increase bond issue is approved by the Board of Education, additional information about the issue will be communicated to the public.