Park Elementary School’s Sale to City Paused by Board for This Reason

Back view of elementary school student raising her hand

A school board in Wichita, Kansas, is holding off on the planned sale of Park Elementary School until the end of the month.

The school was scheduled to be sold to the city for only $1, after the school board decided in March to close Park Elementary and five other schools.

City officials were hoping to turn the school into a homeless resource campus, which they were going to call the MAC, or Multi-Agency Center. Eventually, this building would offer support services and housing spaces for people who are experiencing homelessness, and it will serve as an emergency winter shelter by November.

There are two steps that must happen before the school property is turned over to the city.

Wichita Public Schools must first declare that the school is a surplus property. Then, it has to officially sell the building to the city.

The school board had previously scheduled to make that first decision on Monday night, but that will now be pushed back until at least June 27. City officials now wonder if they’ll be able to set up the emergency homeless shelter in time for the winter.

The board delayed its decision after Vice President Diane Albert proposed that they go into a private session, where it received “legal advice regarding transactions involving real property with the board’s legal counsel.”

Following that brief session, Hazel Stabler, a board member who represents the district in which Park Elementary is located, asked that he vote on the future of the building be delayed.

As she said:

“Now that the City of Wichita has released their comprehensive plan for the Multi-Agency Center, I would like to receive additional information before making a decision.”

Stan Reeser, the president of the school board, said they might plan a workshop to be held before the meeting on June 27, during which they could discuss the future of the building.

Julie Hedrick, another board member, said she believed it was more appropriate to have a workshop that was open to the public rather than simply discussing it during Monday’s board meeting.

City Council held a meeting the next night, during which members discussed possible ramifications of the delay in the school board vote. One thing that was brought up was whether they’d be able to open the winter emergency shelter by the middle of November.

It’s still possible that it could happen, as the state Legislature can make a final decision whether to approve the sale within 45 days of the City Council making a decision to purchase the property.

Troy Anderson, who serves as the city’s assistant manager, said that they would focus on items they could control while the school board makes its decision. That includes ramping up community engagement, fine-tuning different costs and other things.

He added, though, that “realistically, right, it’s going to be close,” referencing the mid-November timeline.

Anderson said:

“That shot clock is counting down, but everybody is committed to trying to … once we are given the green light.”