Briarwood parents tell Shawnee Mission board tearing down gym would be ‘complete reversal’ of assurances given during bond campaign

Briarwood Elementary will be torn down and rebuilt — but whether its nine year old gym will be razed or incorporated into the new structure is unknown.
Briarwood Elementary will be torn down and rebuilt — but whether its nine-year-old gym will be razed or incorporated into the new structure is unknown.

A group of Briarwood Elementary parents on Monday told the Shawnee Mission Board of Education they expected the gymnasium the community raised approximately $75,000 to help build nine years ago to remain standing as part of the rebuilt school.

The statement from Susann Ogg, who was flanked by six supporters, came during the open forum of a meeting during which the board approved an agreement with Hollis and Miller Architects for design services on the building that is worth more than $750,000.

Ogg told the board that there was concern around the neighborhood that one of the design options for rebuilding the school would include razing the gym that the community had worked hard to fund improvements for, like a real wood floor and bleachers.

“Following through on this proposal to replace the current gym with a new one would be a complete reversal of what voters were told during the bond campaign,” Ogg said. “We believe there must be accountability for assurance made as part of this or any bond issue campaign.”

Her sentiments were echoed by Jim Steiner, who said he had three grandchildren go through the school.

“In the state of Kansas, funding for education has been a raging debate now for years,” he said. “Our legislature seems to believe that school districts waste money and the only way to control it is to cut off the funds. I do not subscribe to that notion. But I would just like to point out that the situation that we’re faced with here seems to provide fodder for their point of view.”

Dr. Kenny Southwick, who is overseeing the reconstruction of Briarwood, Crestview and Trailwood Elementaries, addressed the projects during the superintendents report of the meeting, saying that no final decisions about any design options had been made at this point.

“We’re designing a building that’s going to last the next 50 to 60 years at a minimum,” he said. “At this point in time, and we know there’s been some concern, we’ve been a little bit reluctant to lay information out until we have an opportunity to meet with those groups and explain what those design options are. No final decisions have been made about what those plans will look like, and we value everyone’s input as we move forward.”

Southwick is scheduled to meet with the Brairwood parents later this week to discuss the issue.