KCPS to demolish Thacher Elementary School this summer

By LESLIE COLLINS
Northeast News
March 6, 2013

Thacher demolition. Three years ago, Thacher Elementary was a thriving grade school. When KCPS shuttered the school in 2010, vandalism and arson took their toll. KCPS plans to begin demolition this summer. Leslie Collins

Despite attempts to repurpose the building, the former Thacher Elementary School, 5008 Independence Ave., will be demolished.

Three years ago, Thacher was a fully functioning school, housing the students of the Kansas City Public Schools system.

However, Thacher, along with more than 30 other schools were shuttered as part of the district’s right-sizing initiative to balance the district’s budget and pool resources.

In 2011, arson gutted the second floor of the 1914 addition and severely compromised the first floor. Smoke and water damage, along with mold, affected other parts of the building. Vandals also contributed to the deterioration of the building, making renovating the building an expensive task.

While KCPS received proposals for the site, they all entailed demolishing the three-story Second Renaissance Revival style building, which was originally built in 1900.

Thacher also shares an 8-acre plot with the former Northeast Middle School building, which also went on the market. During the right-sizing initiative, KCPS shuttered its middle schools and now parents are requesting that KCPS re-establish the middle school system. A Middle School Advisory Committee has been formed to discuss options and KCPS is considering re-opening Northeast Middle School as a functioning neighborhood school. As a result of these new developments, Northeast Middle is no longer on the market and Thacher remains a liability.

Based on the district moving forward with developing middle schools, KCPS will solicit bids in April to demolish Thacher, said Shannon Jaax, director of the KCPS Repurposing Initiative.

“It’s (Thacher) a major security and safety issue, not only for the community in general, but especially if we’re going to have middle school students on that site,” Jaax said. “One of the things we heard from the neighborhood leadership is while ideally they’d like to save Thacher, they do realize the challenge it presents and being able to reuse the middle school was of higher importance to them.”

KCPS will try to save as much building material and architectural components from Thacher as possible, Jaax said.

“I think we have a really good chance with the masonry, the brick material and the exterior of the building,” she said. “As far as the interior, since there has been fire damage and water damage throughout, it’s less clear on what can be reused and recycled.”

One of the requirements of the winning bid will be to detail what building components can be saved.

KCPS expects environmental abatement and demolition to begin in mid-summer. Prior to demolition, another community meeting will be held to discuss concerns and provide additional details about the demolition. Following demolition, the site will be razed and grass seed will be planted. In terms of other uses for the razed site, KCPS is open to options, which will also depend on the success of the middle school, Jaax said.

Area residents are encouraged to attend the upcoming middle school meetings, where they can discuss potential middle school educational programming and re-use options for the demolished Thacher site, she said.

The Northeast meeting will be held Tuesday, March 12, at Garfield Elementary, 436 Prospect Ave., Kansas City, Mo.

McCoy Elementary Demolition 

McCoy Elementary School, 1524 White Ave., closed in 2010 and continues to be a target of vandalism. Block Real Estate Services listed the site on Nov. 28, 2011, and to date, no one has offered to buy the building.

“McCoy is a tough site,” Jaax said. “It’s a small site and the building has an awkward layout, so we knew interest would be somewhat limited.”

According to a KCPS “re-use strategy” document, McCoy has suffered multiple break-ins, vandalism and small fires. Thanks to vandalism, the boiler system was compromised to the extent that the gas line had to be turned off at the street. In addition, McCoy is a regular target for graffiti and dumping, the document stated. An uptick in illegal activity at the school was reported in 2012, despite KCPS’ round-the-clock patrols of the vacant schools.

Due to the ongoing vandalism, the Blue Valley Neighborhood Association has requested that the building be demolished.

“They’re concerned about the building becoming a safety hazard and a blighting influence on the neighborhood,” Jaax said.

KCPS plans to honor the neighborhood association’s request and will use a landscape architect and planner to work with the neighborhood to discuss options for the site once the building is demolished, she said. In-kind services would be used to implement the agreed upon plan.

KCPS representatives will meet with the neighborhood association to further discuss the McCoy demolition on Thursday, March 21, at 6 p.m. at Saint Paul School of Theology’s Holter Hall, 5123 E Truman Rd., Kansas City, Mo. A previous meeting had been scheduled, but was cancelled due to the recent snow storm.

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