Fenced and boarded; progress at Thacher

By JOE JAROSZ
Northeast News
May 21, 2014

KANSAS CITY, Missouri – Drive past the closed Thacher Elementary school and you’ll notice a few changes.

The windows on the second floor have been boarded up. There’s a gate surrounding the school. Soon, even the graffiti on the building could be gone.

Nearly two months after getting a six month stay of execution from the Kansas City Public School Board of Education, progress is slowly but surely being made with the former Thacher Elementary School.

On March 26, 2014, in a 5-3 vote, the school board decided to postpone a decision to demolish Thacher Elementary School. The board gave the grassroots group Save Thacher, Save Our Schools meeting, a six month reprive. The school board wanted the vacant school located at 5008 Independence Ave., to be razed in time for the opening of Northeast Middle School, which is scheduled to open this August and sits on the same parcel of land as the former elementary school. One of the provisions of the postponement was to set-up a perimiter fence around the structure so when the middle school opens, children won’t be able to access the former elementary school.

Shannon Jaxx, director of the repurposing effort for the Kansas City Public Schools, said the district assisted with the gate and graffiti removal because once the decision was made to postpone the demolition, a decision was immediately made to step in.

“We determined we had to secure the school as soon as possible,” Jaxx said. “We’ll assess things as we go forward, but right now, there’s an appropriate amount of protection for the [Northeast] middle school students.”

At a recent meeting for the grassroots group, Manny Abarca, one of the organizers, said the group is gaining ground with several area developers expressing an interest in the project. One group of developers have similar experience with repurposing schools. Abarca decline to comment on which developers the group has spoken with.

“We’ll talk to them about a time frame,” Abarca said. “We do not have enough time to confirm a lot, but if we get a developer behind us saying they’re ready to do this, we’re more likely to get more time [from KCPS].”

Architect Bruce Best has been assisting the group with the search for developers. Abarca said more information could be available late next week.

At the meeting, the group also discussed ways to raise awareness about their efforts. Bryan Stalder, also an organizer of the group, said on June 7, the group plans to hold a walk to raise awareness. Registration will begin at 8 a.m. with the walk starting at 9 a.m.

“We want to put our money where our mouth is and show the neighborhood cares,” Stalder said.

Currently, the plan for the walk is to begin at Thacher Elementary, go east on Van Brunt Boulevard to St. John’s Avenue, east to Hardesty Avenue back down to Independence Avenue to end back at the elementary school. The nearly two-mile hike will likely include food and water, business sponsors along the route and prizes at the end.

“Awareness is more important at this point,” Stalder said.

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