The Printing Building on the east side of campus has been leased to a private school and is undergoing extensive renovation for an expected opening in fall 2018.
The vacant building, constructed in 1953, is about 9,000 square feet, located near the police station and the credit union. The building hasn't been used for printing since 2010. In recent years, it has been used for storage and to temporarily house departments whose space was being renovated. The rear of the building has green space that will become a fenced play yard facing Innovation Campus.
The new school, called Wonder, will start with preschool and elementary-age children. Plans call for middle- and high-school programs to be phased in over time.
The school was founded by Annie Koch and Zach Lahn. It was publicly announced in an article Sunday, Feb. 4, in the Wichita Eagle.
Total launch costs for the new school are estimated at $1.5 million, including $1.1 million renovations to the building. Wonder is a non-profit supported by Annie and Chase Koch. There are no Koch Industries corporate funds being used.
There are no WSU student tuition or fees or other state funds being used for the renovation of the building or the operation of the school. Under a lease agreement between Wonder and the Wichita State Innovation Alliance, the new school will pay $90,000 a year to use the building.
The original Wichita Eagle article and follow-up stories have prompted hundreds of social media comments. Here are answers to some frequently asked questions:
- Why didn't the university announce the plan?
- Is this Wonder model based on existing schools in the U.S.?
- Will the school advocate the libertarian philosophy associated with Koch Industries??
- How will this school affect WSU students, faculty and staff?
- Is it appropriate to have a private school on state property?
- How did Wichita State become involved with this?
- What does this have to do with Innovation Campus?
- What if Wonder leaves?
- Is this just a school for kids whose parents can afford private school tuition?
- Does this mean we’re less committed to USD 259?
- Where will people park for the new school?
- What has been the initial response to news about the new school?
- How do I find out more?
Q: Why didn't the university announce the plan?
A: When innovation partners are making a major investment on campus we let them shape how they want to make it public. The founders decided the best vehicle for announcing the school would be through an article in The Wichita Eagle. In retrospect, we recognize our students, faculty and staff would have benefitted from timelier direct communication from the university.
Q: Is this Wonder model based on existing schools in the U.S.?
A: Yes, the founders say they are actively learning from many schools, including NuVu at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Acton Academy in Austin. Lahn said each of these schools follows a model of experiential learning that is consistent with putting children in an exceptional environment to help them discover their distinctive skills. This educational model aligns with the applied learning approach the university is implementing in its own curriculum. The model schools Wonder is studying also emphasize parent participation.
Q: Will the school advocate the libertarian philosophy associated with Koch Industries? ?
A: Annie Koch and Zach Lahn said they intend the school to be an open marketplace of ideas. It won't advocate a religious, social or political philosophy; students will be encouraged to explore ideas and develop their own beliefs.
Q: How will this school affect WSU students, faculty and staff?
A: There will be opportunities for College of Education faculty and students to observe and participate in how to improve educational outcomes for students.
Q: Is it appropriate to have a private school on state property?
A: Wichita State's Innovation Campus already has private businesses taking up residence within state-owned academic buildings like the Experiential Engineering Building where they interact regularly with our students, faculty and staff. Further, there's a long tradition in American higher education of having laboratory schools so that students and faculty can gain insights into different educational methods and so that children can benefit from the knowledge and experience of those who are devoting their lives to education. Even though this is a private school, its founders are committed to sharing knowledge gained with USD 259 and any other schools that are interested.
Q: How did Wichita State become involved with this?
Our involvement with Wonder began in spring 2017 with the founders seeking out John Tomblin in his role as president of Wichita State Innovation Alliance. They said they wanted to have the school at WSU to be part of the innovation efforts underway here. Last fall they began talking with College of Education Dean Shirley Lefever about how to get WSU students and faculty involved in research and applied learning. The dean informed College of Education faculty near the end of fall 2017 semester that a private school announcement was forthcoming.
Q: What does this have to do with Innovation Campus?
A: Wichita State Innovation Alliance applied the same standards to Wonder that have been applied to potential innovation partners coming onto Innovation Campus. Those who want to be here must demonstrate interest in innovation; be committed to working with our students and/or faculty in an applied learning and research environment; and be able to provide their own resources, without WSU student tuition funds or other state support. Wonder meets all the criteria.
Q: What if Wonder leaves?
A: The university gets the improved Printing Building back for other uses.
Q: Is this just a school for kids whose parents can afford private school tuition?
A: Private schools charge tuition, so attending Wonder may not be a viable option for all. The founders intent is to offer financial aid to at least 25 percent of the students attending the school, beginning in its second year.
Q: Does this mean we’re less committed to USD 259??
A: WSU is deeply embedded with USD 259 and many other public-school systems throughout the state. Being involved with one more learning environment doesn't detract from those relationships that have been built over the decades. Trying an idea for a small number of students doesn't preclude WSU’s involvement in all the innovative things USD 259 and other schools are doing. The creation of this new school focused on experience-based learning is just one of many signs of innovation reshaping education at all levels.
Q: Where will people park for the new school?
A: There will be limited parking provided for the school in the vicinity of its building. Most students will be dropped off at the school, so there won't be a significant need for parking.
Q: What has been the initial response to news about the new school?
A: Naturally people have many questions. It’s great that Wonder has engendered so much conversation. As a community, we don't often step back and talk about the underlying values and how education content is delivered. The fact that hundreds of people are talking about this is good. A lot of people are intrigued by it.
Q: How do I find out more?
A: The school has started a website with a form for more information and a link to a blog about the school’s underlying philosophy at www.daringtowonder.com