Likelihood of saving Thacher continues to diminish

Posted May 14, 2013 at 11:30 pm

By LESLIE COLLINS
Northeast News
May 15, 2013

Now that the Kansas City Public Schools’ Board of Education has approved reinstating middle schools, the possibility of saving the former Thacher Elementary School building is becoming less likely.

Thacher-exterior

Thacher damage. Thacher was built in 1900 and features a Second Renaissance Revival style. Arson damaged the 1914 addition two years ago, gutting the second floor and leaving the first floor severely compromised. Vandals have also contributed to the decline of Thacher. Due to the damage, KCPS staff have recommended demolition, which could occur as early as this summer. Thacher closed in 2009 as part of the district’s right-sizing initiative. The three-story building totals 34,100 square feet, has 18 classrooms and is located in the Indian Mound Neighborhood. Leslie Collins

Board members approved reinstating middle schools during an April 24 meeting and plan to use Northeast Middle School and Central Middle School to house seventh through eighth grades beginning in 2014.

Three years ago, the district shuttered its middle schools as part of the right-sizing initiative to balance the budget and because KCPS wasn’t getting the results it wanted academically, said KCPS Public Relations Manager Andre Riley.

KCPS currently houses kindergarten through sixth grades in the same building, and for high school, grades seventh through 12th.

Parents began asking the district to reconsider opening middle schools and a Middle School Advisory Committee comprised of parents, community members and KCPS staff then made the recommendation to reinstate middle schools.

Thacher, which was shuttered during the right-sizing initiative, sits at 5008 Independence Ave. and shares an 8-acre plot with Northeast Middle School. Originally built in 1900, the three-story building features Second Renaissance Revival style architecture. Due to arson and vandalism, Thacher has suffered extensive damage and rehabilitation would be costly. To date, no one has offered to purchase the building.

District staff have recommended demolition of the site and the recommendation is awaiting  board of education approval.

“There’s real concern about Northeast Middle as a school and having a burned out vacant building on the same site,” said Shannon Jaax, KCPS Repurposing Initiative director. “What kind of environment does that leave for the children? It truly does become a safety issue.”

Before formal action is taken, KCPS plans to hold additional community meetings regarding Thacher. Jaax said KCPS is still open to re-use, but doubts a buyer will come forward.

If the building is demolished, the site could be used to enhance the Northeast Middle School campus and options would be discussed on how to best use the vacant lot, Jaax said.

“At this point we haven’t found any viable re-use (for Thacher) in the near term,” she said. “It’s a very difficult building to reuse in its current state with a shared site with a school.”