Small School Feel with Big School Opportunities
Shawnee Heights USD 450 is a uniquely rural and suburban school district located in southeast Shawnee County. The district offers the benefits of living in a small rural community with the advantages and opportunities that come with being close to the city of Topeka. In addition, the cultural opportunities of Kansas City are just 50 miles to the east.
The 140 square miles of rolling hills that comprise the Shawnee Heights community are situated about half way between Topeka and Lawrence. Shawnee Heights lies in an area of great rural beauty close to the heart of the Kansas capital in Topeka. Opportunities for recreation at Lake Shawnee abound from walking, running or biking the trails to fishing and boating in the lake, playing tennis on the courts or golfing the scenic 18-hole public golf course. Nearby higher education institutions including Washburn University, Washburn Institute of Technology, Kansas State University, the University of Kansas and Emporia State University offer a variety of convenient traditional and online educational opportunities. Business areas offer convenient services and light industry while easy access to I-70 provides access to local employment or a brief commute to downtown Topeka, Lawrence or Kansas City. At the center of our community is Shawnee Heights School District.
Shawnee Heights School District is the educational center for approximately 3,500 students from preschool through 12th grade. Four Pre-K through 6th grade elementary schools, a 7-8 middle school and a 9-12 high school comprise the attendance centers of the district. Classes are small, averaging about 22 students district-wide. Our teachers and faculty are trained extensively in pedagogy and take great pride in developing positive relationships with our students and families. Over 55% of our faculty have a Masters Degree or beyond and school transportation is available for all students regardless of the distance from school.
Historically, the area that encompasses the present Shawnee Height District 450 included the elementary attendance centers of Richland, Berryton and Tecumseh. The Tecumseh students attended Highland Park Rural High School. These rural communities found themselves caught in the trend of suburban movement of the 1950s.
In 1960 Highland Park High School was annexed into the City of Topeka which created a need for a high school attendance center for the Tecumseh students. For two years these students were transported to Highland Park. A three member board was formed to investigate the feasibility of a high school for this area, and a citizens’ committee of eight was appointed to study the ramifications of constructing such a school. In June 1960, the committee outlined the need for the school and recommended that it be a joint venture between Tecumseh (old District No. 10) and Berryton-Richland (old District No. 1). The two communities consolidated, and a decision was made to build the new high school on the 47 acres of purchased land. A principal was hired to help with the planning, and in 1962 Shawnee Heights High School (named as the result of a contest between eighth grade students of the three attendance centers) was opened. Enrollment the first year was 260 students in the building constructed to accommodate 400 students.
As housing interest moved eastward from Topeka, school enrollment grew quickly, and additional acreage was purchased for new buildings. In 1970 a new junior high school was built for grades 7-9. In 1979 another new building was added. At the present time grades 7-8 are housed in the original high school grades 9-10 in the 1970 building and grades 11-12 in the 1979 building. The three buildings lie in a triangle on the corner of 45th Street and Shawnee Heights Road.