A group of Trailwood Elementary parents are raising concerns that the Shawnee Mission School District’s accelerated timeline to rebuild the school at the same time it is undertaking the rebuilding of four other district elementaries may lead to a less-than-optimal outcome.
Parents who have been following the rebuilding process say they don’t feel the community has been given adequate opportunities to give input on the project, and that many of those who have tried to raise concerns or give suggestions have been ignored.
“People in general feel like no one is listening to them about their concerns,” said Trailwood mom Christine Pai. “The project feels like its rushed. And maybe that’s why they don’t want to listen to anybody and hear what we have to say.”
While the district has held three meetings for all school parents on the project — Superintendent Jim Hinson met with the PTA on two occasions, and the district’s design team met with the PTA in late May — some of the parents complained that the meetings weren’t well publicized, and that they were held during daytime hours when many parents couldn’t attend.
“People have found it very frustrating,” said Jessica Nance, who has two children at the school. “A lot of people haven’t had a chance to see the plans yet.”
But Dr. Kenny Southwick, the deputy superintendent overseeing the elementary rebuild projects, said the district is still in the design development phase, and that the district is open to input and working to be responsive. After parents raised concerns to the design team, the district held a meeting with a group of five parents to get their specific feedback. Southwick said a follow up meeting with that group will be scheduled in the next few days to show what changes the district has made to their plan as a result of parent input.
Among the concerns the parents have brought to the district’s attention are the configuration of the entrances, with some building access along 95th Street instead of the quieter, more residential Rosewood. Additionally, parents say that the proposed design they’ve seen doesn’t take advantage of opportunities for expanded green space and play areas.
Southwick said the district has been taking parent input into consideration as it maps out its site plan.
“The design that has been laid out for Trailwood, given the limitations of the site, is believed to be the best design with respect to the entrance, the academic flow of the building, as well as safety and security,” he said. “These factors have been considered and will be a part of the administration’s management plan for the building.”
But parents like Nance say there’s a sense that the accelerated nature of the project — the district plans to break ground on the new school in the fall while students continue attending class in the existing building — seems to be hampering the district’s ability to take parental input into consideration.
“I’m sure they’ll build a very lovely school, but they’ll miss some opportunities,” Vance said. “With a little extra effort, they could make a really great school.”