Monday, March 14, 2011

Kansas City Public Schools Earns an A+ for School Repurposing Plan - St. Louis Public Schools: F

Westport High School - Kansas City

The Kansas City, Missouri School District has recently announce a "year-long community engagement and planning process to develop community-driven reuse plans for the district's closed school buildings". Yes, you read that correctly! Kansas City's public school district will develop community-driven reuse plans for the district's closed school buildings! Here in St. Louis of course this would be a foreign concept. In stark contrast, the St. Louis Public School district treats many of its closed historic schools like garbage to be put in the alley to rot or worse to be destroyed outright.

Last year the Kansas City Missouri School District closed 28 of its 61 schools due to dwindling enrollment and a $50 million deficit. Below is a map of Kansas City's closed public schools, including Westport High School (photo above from KCMSD) that would be repurposed with this new initiative. Some of the schools will apparently be kept and mothballed by the district.

Seven Oaks School -Kansas City
The closed Seven Oaks School near Armour Boulevard - photo from The Pitch.

Over the last 20 years or so, St. Louis Public Schools has consistently threatened several closed historic schools with demolition, sold to them new owners who intended demolition, or demolished the historic structures themselves. Demolished historic SLPS buildings include: Marquette Elementary (1995), Benton Elementary (1996), William Stix Elementary & adjacent Elias Michael Schools (1997) and Bates (1997).

Stix School 04.jpg
The William Stix School was demolished for a new BJC parking garage.

CityMuseum 10
The entrance to now demolished Edward Bates School, now in City Museum (from
minnemom's Flickr photos)

Other St. Louis public schools that have been threatened with demolition include the Ittner designed Theresa School, which the St. Louis School Board entered into a contract to sell to Walgreens which would have demolished the school for a new store. Fortunately due to outcry from the public, the school board canceled the sale and the building was sold to Amy and Amrit Gill who transformed it into the Theresa Park Lofts.

Two years ago another Ittner school, Mann Elementary was marked for closure and possible demolition for a replacement school under an ill-conceived consolidation plan. Pressure from neighbors and preservationists combined with support from Alderwoman Florida for keeping the existing school open and ultimately a lack of funding for the new school led the SLPS administration to finally back off from this plan. Shenandoah School had also been reported as an alternate site for the new consolidated school which would have resulted in its demolition.

Mann Elementary School in Tower Grove South

This year however in what can only be termed a bait a switch, Proposition S funds, which were sold to voters last fall "for the pupose of acquiring, constructing, renovaring, repairing, improving, furnishing and equipping school sites, buildings and related facilities in the District" will be used to demolish the old Hodgen School at Henrietta an California in the Gate District. SLPS claims it is demolishing to provide an improved playground for the new Hodgen School, but this is a sorry ass excuse considering that the new Hodgen School is actually contiguous with a City park.

Hodgen School
The old Hodgen School. To my knowledge there is no organized opposition currently fighting the impending demolition of this historic school.

For closed St. Louis Public Schools that are not demolished, the fate sometimes resembles demolition by neglect. The Carr School at Carr & 15th Streets closed in June 1978. While the Carr Square Tenant Corporation has owned the former school for the last decade, City records show that the Board of Education of SLPS owned the building through 1999. From its condition today, it is obvious that little to no maintenance has occurred over the course of the first 21 years of abandonment.

Carr Aerial.jpg
An aerial view of Carr School shows extensive roof collapse and deterioration. An aerial photo on the City's property database shows that the collapse was already underway by 2002.

Kansas City, Missouri School District has not gone without criticism in the past for its handling of closed school buildings, and in October 1990 KCMSD imploded one of its most notable landmarks, Paseo High School. If KCMSD's new initiative to repurpose its closed schools through a public planning process proves successful however it could very well become a model for St. Louis Public Schools as well as other cities.

Paseo High School Aerial from 1967 Paseon
An aerial photo of Paseo High School from the 1967 Paseon.

Photos of the implosion of Paseo High School by Joe Robertson, Class of 1960.


Anonymous said...

Seven Oaks School is not even close to Armour Blvd. I went to school there and lived two houses up from the school. it was on 37th and Jackson Ave. I went there for several years. it sure is in pitifull shape. too bad they can't do something besides tear them down. they are historic bldgs.

Anonymous said...

The destruction of Paseo High was quasi-criminal. The structure was sound. KC has left Southwest to rot, now repurposed for an emptied Westport High. There is very little left of the City Beautiful schools of Kansas City. Thank God the suburbs have preserved something. Bancroft School 1 block from Troost is returning to nature.

Virtually all of the aging power brokers from KC's 20th century went to Central, Westport, or Paseo High. Southwest was a different demographic. Those three high schools are dead. A big part of Kansas City died alongside.