Last month, we asked our readers what issues they wanted to hear the candidates running for local office address ahead of this fall’s local elections primary. Based on the input we received, we developed a three-item questionnaire for candidates running for governing body in Westwood.
Today we publish the candidates’ responses to item two:
Progress has been stalled on the reconfiguration of the Westwood View-Dennis Park-former Entercom property sites for a few years now. What’s your hope for progress on that idea? What needs to happen for things to start moving forward?
Westwood View Elementary is one of our City’s most important and valuable assets, and our residents expect that our leaders will work to ensure its continued strength and viability. Having served on the Planning Commission and the City Council, and with both of our children currently attending Westwood View, I know how important Westwood View is to our City’s history and our future.
In 2016, the Shawnee Mission School District acquired the former Entercom property for the stated purpose of building a new Westwood View. As shown by our comprehensive planning process in 2017, our community strongly supports that development. I do as well. Westwood residents also value parks and green spaces, and we have opportunities to expand and improve our park amenities.
That being said, the City’s economic development and park planning has been “paused” for too long and needs to move forward. At this time, the City does not have a clear message from the School District as to whether a new Westwood View will be built on the former Entercom site, or whether the School District will renovate the existing Westwood View, or whether the School District might need property from the 5050 Rainbow site in order accommodate its plans.
First and foremost, the City must continue to work with the School District—and not against the School District—to emphasize the importance of Westwood View and the need in our community for strong and modern facilities that will serve our growing population. Westwood View is itself a catalyst for housing redevelopment, the attraction of new families, and investment from the business community in our commercial corridors. Any efforts to discourage improvements for Westwood View are inconsistent with our City’s vision and our great working relationship with the School District.
Second, Westwood should move forward to the extent we can with City planning for multiple projects, including park expansion (and ADA accessibility), housing, deferred maintenance on our City Hall or planning for new facilities, and expected commercial expansion. In order to appropriately budget, engage the community in planning, and present development strategies to our residents and businesses, we need confirmation that a new Westwood View is coming to the former Entercom property, and when that will be. The School District can and should be the City’s partner in these efforts, so that our neighborhood school remains a distinguishing feature of our community.
Lastly, it is important that our Westwood View family stakeholders be part of the process. Our Friends of Westwood View, our PTA, the Educational Enhancement Fund, and our current and former parents should all have a seat at the table. As Mayor, I will also work with the leaders of our other Westwood View feeder cities—Mission Hills, Fairway, Westwood Hills, and Mission Woods—to help bring these projects to fruition.
City Council (at-large)
Since there is new leadership within the Shawnee Mission School District and there will be new leadership in Westwood, my hope is that the lines of communication between the residents, City, school board members and district staff remain open and candid and that the relationship between these groups stays strong and committed to the best interest of the students and school staff.
The underlying theme I hear from almost everyone that I speak with during my campaign is that families move here for the school and since my son started kindergarten at Westwood View this past Fall, I can certainly attest to the high value the school brings to the community. While it would be nice to hear concise plans on what the district plans to do with the school property, it’s also important to realize the intricacies of the situation from their end. The other consideration is making sure that the district realizes the value in moving at a pace that is conducive to Westwood’s municipal, residential and student goals. I feel the bottom line is making sure the school community knows that their concerns around this issue are being heard and that they are being advocated for by the City to the most appropriate district board members and staff.
Lastly, I would like to take a moment to commend the amazing teachers and staff at Westwood View who make take care of our children every day. The appreciation and respect I have for educators and staff in a district as large as the Shawnee Mission School District is immeasurable – you have our future in your hands so thank you for the care and development of our children.
Westwood has a great opportunity when the reconfiguration of these properties happens. The Shawnee Mission School District purchased the former Entercom property in 2016 as a potential rebuild site for the school. For things to move forward, we would need to know what the district plans to do regarding our 50 year old school building and this property they purchased. At that point, Westwood will be able to make progress on plans to expand park space and proceed with other potential development. If a rebuild of Westwood View does happen, students could stay in session on the current site until a new school rebuild is complete on the Entercom property. I do realize the impact a school rebuild on this property will have on many neighbors surrounding the property, so considering school design and traffic flow will be important.
With community involvement and input, I would love to see the city explore opening up the property on Rainbow for compatible small scale commercial and or residential development. Furthermore, the city could potentially purchase some of the property where the current Westwood View sits, pushing the park space away from Rainbow to a safer and more peaceful location. I would love to see the mature trees of this area preserved and a park designed with our whole community in mind including amenities like a playground, walking trails and a shelter.
Our community has a long history of valuing education and supporting our Westwood View School. Having this excellent public school in our city gives value to each and every resident who lives here by retaining and increasing property value and being a hub of community connection. Continuing this legacy of excellent education through Westwood View is of the utmost importance to our city and top priority when considering city planning and potential reconfiguration.
I’m very excited and look forward to having a new Westwood View school whether it is constructed on the Entercom lot or on the current school site. The school is a vital asset to our community! When I moved to Westwood in 1989, closing the school was being discussed due to low attendance. I fought along with my neighbors to ensure that this would not happen. Closing our school was NOT an option for us!
Recently two of my Westwood neighbors and I met with Superintendent Fulton and Deputy Superintendent Atha. It’s my understanding from that meeting that our new school might not be built for many years. They said that things could always change but for now there are no plans to build a new school in Westwood. That’s why it’s critical for city leaders to build and maintain clear communication with the Superintendent’s office.
Westwood recently completed a master plan process where there was extensive input from residents regarding the exact areas mentioned in your question. Unfortunately, the master plan was completed without a cohesive plan being proposed. There has been plenty of feedback as to what residents want to see on those parcels and, yes, it would be helpful if we had a firm commitment from the school district. We don’t have that commitment—yet. I fully intend to keep the lines of communication open with the district so that we as a city can move forward as soon as possible. We need to re-read those master plan responses and act according to what residents have already expressed.