Expansion of new elementary school approved

GEARY COUNTY SCHOOLS—Representative from USD 475 and Fort Riley were invited to Arlington, Virginia to brief a federal review panel from the office of Local Defense Community Cooperation (OLDCC) regarding the status of Morris Hill Elementary on Fort Riley.

Morris Hill Elementary is one of five USD 475 schools located on Fort Riley with a sixth school currently under construction. David Wild, USD 475 Chief Operations Officer, states that a 2018 Department of Defense schools audit cited Morris Hill, constructed in 1957, as being at the end of its functional life with inadequate classrooms, gym, cafeteria, music room, library, tech labs, art, science, and special education spaces. Temporary modular facilities are in use for the early childhood program.

OLDCC invited representatives to discuss the possible repair or replacement of Morris Hill Elementary. The panel agreed with a district concept plan to expand the grade school project currently under construction. This construction project is to replace the former Jefferson Elementary School. The proposed expansion would increase student capacity of the new school from 390 to more than 500, while meeting needs of nearby housing areas previously served by Jefferson and Morris Hill Elementary schools.

“This will allow the district to raze Morris Hill, expand the current project, and reduce overhead expenditures at 20 percent of the cost of a replacement school. A solution that is good for the District, Army families, taxpayers, and OLDCC,” Wild added.

Jeff Williamson, Director of Public Works for Fort Riley, presented the federal team with an overview of Installation history and the strong partnership with the school district. During the panel question and answer period, Mr. Williamson provided assurances of on-post housing stability and the process for updating the environmental impact study that is to be a part of the application process. Williamson also stated, “We are anticipating some growth in troop strength which is accounted for in the project expansion concept proposed by the district.”  

As a result of the Virginia meetings, OLDCC will invite USD 475 to submit an expansion project matching grant application. If approved, OLDCC provides 80 percent of the monies needed for the expansion. The district is currently holding sufficient funds to cover its share of the initiative. Construction of the expansion portion of the new school will continue after the school opens in the summer of 2023.