DE SOTO, Kan. — Panasonic’s planned battery plant in De Soto, Kanas is expected to bring growth to the already-expanding district, while eventually helping to pay for some of the growth once tax abatement incentives expire.

“Having the Panasonic plant there doesn’t actually cause us to need more schools, it’s where the people end up,” said De Soto Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Frank Harwood.

“From an enrollment perspective, we’re really waiting on the next part of this development, which is where is the housing going to develop.”

Dr. Harwood’s district already covers much of Shawnee, Lenexa and Olathe. Many new homes are being built there as Johnson County grows, making up a majority of the district population. It’s why the district already set aside $5 million of a 2018 bond to pay for land aquisition for future expansions.

“We’ve already purchased 150 acres in the southern part of the community and we’re also looking at some other areas for some other schools moving forward,” said Dr. Harwood.

That land can later be traded or sold if there’s a need for school resources in different parts of the community.

The plant’s taxes won’t be going to the school district for years as part of a tax abatement incentive. That is the cost of attracting a $4 billion private investment project to the region, which is the largest in state history.

Instead, the short-term benefit, once the plant is completed in the next few years, will be having a high-tech manufactoring operation within district boundaries.

“You think about it as an advanced manufactoring plant but there’s a lot more to it than just the manufacotring side,” said Dr. Harwood. “There are also opportunities for our students in business, finance and HR.”

He said the district is already speaking with Panasonic about how students interested in a variety of careers can interact with the company while they’re in high school to help inform what kind of career path they want to take.

“The district itself has always been known to be a pretty good school district,” said De Soto parent Alisha Caton.

“But to be known for something that’s positive and to grow down the road, it seems like a very safe place for the kids to go to school and to have a good impact on the community.”

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