Shawnee Mission School District unveils state-of-the-art learning space

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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- Hundreds of community members got to tour the newest addition to the Shawnee Mission School District on Wednesday evening.

“What you’re in tonight is a hybrid building, it is a school, it is an office building and it’s also a community space,” said Interim Superintendent Dr.Kenny Southwick.

The 70,000 square-foot space meets many needs for the district and its students.

“We had staff in four different buildings across the district in about 400,000 square-feet, we had signature programs all across the district, and the thought was to bring all of that together,” Southwick explained.

But the main purpose for the new Center for Acedemic Achievement, or CAA is the state-of-the-art learning space it provides for students. The building houses five signature programs that offer students a chance to learn career skills in real-life settings.

“I think this helps us transform education, to be able to put these kids in this program, have real life experiences, make real life connections with businesses and industries,” said Southwick.

About 300 high school juniors and seniors take classes in this building everyday. It contains specialized learning areas for Culinary arts, Bio-Tech, Medical Preperation, Gaming and Animatin, and Engineering programs. Senior Eriana George is enrolled in the popular Medical Health Science program.

“We have more technology, we have actual mannequins that actually breathe and can talk so that we don’t have to have an actual student laying in the bed,” said George.

She says being enrolled in this first-class program has helped her decide she wants to become a nurse.

“I went into the exploring class not knowing what I wanted to do, not sure what field, because there’s a lot of paths you can take in healthcare, but this program has definitely confirmed my love for science and my passion to learn more about the human body,” she explained.

While students like Greorge feel it’s a blessing to have programs like this, administrators say it’s also a necessity given the chaniging needs of todays students.

“The educational process is not just sitting at a desk anymore, putting in my time, getting a credit and walking across the stage, we need to link students to real life careers, and rather they want to go to college or they want to go straight to work in a high paying viable job, these programs allow students to do that,” said Southwick.

The CAA also has a lot of green features like electric car charging stations, a rain water filtration system and a half-acre garden where students in the culinary arts program can grow food to serve in the Bistro Restaurant that’s located on the buildings first floor.