By Joe Jarosz
July 2, 2014
KANSAS CITY, Missouri – This past Saturday, area residents wanted to show the Kansas City, Mo., Public Schools they cared about their schools in the Northeast.
Even ones that have been shut down. And if that meant waking up early and cleaning the area around Northeast High and Middle School, as well as the perimeter of the former Thacher Elementary School, then that’s what they were going to do.
Beginning at 9 a.m. and lasting until the early afternoon, around 60 community residents participated in the Thacher-A-Thon, a walk to raise awareness for the former elementary school. Community organization Save Thacher, Save Our School orchestrated the walk/clean-up to help raise awareness for the historic building in hopes of saving it from demolition.
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, a six month reprieve. 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. Since that time, the KCPS school board has helped erect a chain link fence surround the school and boarded the windows on the second floor.
Bryan Stalder, president of the Indian Mound Neighborhood Association and organizer of the group, said the 114-year-old school closed in 2009. Since stepping in to prevent the demolition last December, the group has gotten the school board to postpone demolition three times. Stalder doesn’t believe there will be a fourth stay of execution.
“We need to find another re-use,” Stalder said. “Today is about showing the KCPS and potential investors we want a re-use for the building.”
Stalder said the next focus is attending an upcoming school board meeting to give the board an update on the group’s progress. He said a number of recent developers whom the group have spoken with are excited at the possibility of re-using the building, especially with its location on Independence Avenue. Dorri Partain, another organizer of the group, said the group is working on plans, proposals and costs with developers.
Keep Kansas City Beautiful helped support the clean-up portion of the morning. Manny Abarca, another organizer of the group, added they wanted to show the school board that they cared about community schools and appreciate the re-opening of Northeast Middle School.
“As a small but committed community group, we don’t have a lot of resources but we do have people power,” Abarca said. “With the support of Keep Kansas City Beautiful, we are able to clean up the blocks surrounding the school complex and really give back as well as continuing to raise awareness about the importance of Thacher.”
Kathy Drews, who lives in the Northeast, said she went to the school Saturday morning to help clean because she’s spent most of her life in the community and believes in preserving architecture. For a living, Drews remodels kitchens and has worked in a lot of old homes. She said restoring and re-using a building is a lot more beneficial than tearing it down. From ideas she’s heard and has herself, Drews would like to see the space used as a place of community involvement.
“I understand the school board’s thinking but the community is 100 percent for saving the building,” Drews said.