By Ayesha Vishnani
With the long-standing Entercom radio tower removed from the Westwood property, the stage would seem to be set for the Shawnee Mission School District to begin moving toward the construction of a new home for Westwood View Elementary school.
But the timeline for such a project — if it is to occur — is quite uncertain.
“Nobody’s ever given me a timeline,” said Westwood Mayor John Yé said. “Nobody’s ever given me a specific target date, nobody’s shown up to the city with an architectural schematic or anything like that.”
Before announcing his retirement in April, Shawnee Mission Superintendent Jim Hinson had helped push through the district’s purchase of the Entercom property, which is located just a block to the west of the current Westwood View building. With Hinson’s departure, it appears likely efforts to get a new Westwood View building in the works could be on hold until a full-time superintendent is named. A district spokeswoman said there are no plans in place at the moment to begin work on a new Westwood View.
“The district has the property for future needs when they arise, but there are no plans in place right now to move forward with a new elementary school,” Shawnee Mission Communications Director Erin Little said in an email.
Still, the district and city officials have had lengthy discussions about the future of Westwood View, and how a new school building could fit into the redevelopment of the surrounding neighborhood. The city owns the Dennis Park property to the east of the existing school building, as well as the former Westwood Christian Church. The city has in recent years worked with consultants on concepts for redeveloping those public properties.
Yé said the district and the city have a strong relationship and he wants to continue to work with the district on plans for a new Westwood View.
“Whenever they do decide on a timeframe or a date, I hope we’re one of the first ones to know,” Yé said. “Our impression is that they brought that property with the intent should they decide to build a new school that’s where they’d put it. That’s our understanding.”
But, Yé said, it is important for community members to remember that the properties are not owned by the city.
“One of the things that we’ve tried to be very careful about – which we’ve taken occasion heat for – is that we’ve tried to respect the rights of private property owners and not try to misuse the powers of the city in a manipulative way to coerce private property owners to do one thing or another,” Yé said.
He said there still has been public discussion and confusion on what the city should do in these transactions.
“Publicly people have talked about the possible uses of Entercom,” Yé said. “I’m very careful about that conversation, about that topic because we don’t own that property. I continue to tell people that we can’t tell or instruct an owner of property what they think they should do with their own property.”