Parents who had urged the Shawnee Mission School District to delay the spring demolition of Trailwood Elementary until summer break earned a victory Tuesday.
Superintendent Jim Hinson announced the demolition won’t occur until the Overland Park school is out of session for the summer.
Dozens of parents voiced concerns late last year that students might be exposed to contaminants during a scheduled asbestos abatement and demolition at the original school site on West 95th Street. School officials had reassured parents the projects were regulated and low-risk, but agreed to revisit their plans.
In December, students and staff moved into a brand-new school building built adjacent to the original school building at 5101 W. 95th St. The district had originally planned to begin the asbestos abatement for the old building on Jan. 27, and continue with demolition in the spring.
On Tuesday, representatives from the school district, contractor JE Dunn, the abatement company, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, as well as a pediatric environmental hygienist from Children’s Mercy Hospital met with Principal Greg Lawrence and Parent Teacher Association President Christa Rupp to discuss parents’ concerns.
Rupp said staff and local experts studied project details and determined that the many parties involved in the abatement and demolition processes had done everything they could to eliminate health hazards. But school leaders ultimately decided to push back the project.
“Though they felt fine doing it, they felt there was enough concern from parents to delay demolition to ensure the Trailwood Elementary community felt comfortable moving forward with that process and having their kids attend school,” Rupp said.
Hinson announced in a letter Tuesday evening that interior abatement work will now start in March during spring break, and the remainder of the project will commence in the summer.
“The issues expressed by parents and members of the community regarding health concerns related to demolition of the existing structure while students are attending school and the constraints posed by the logistics of the demolition have led to our decision to adjust the demolition timeline,” Hinson wrote.
Although more than 200 parents eventually joined a Facebook group dedicated to delaying the project, other parents opposed delaying the demolition because it would slow the construction of a front drive, parking lot and new playground that was expected to be finished by the start of the 2017 school year.
Delaying the project will also add roughly $100,000 to the demolition costs, district spokeswoman Leigh Anne Neal confirmed Wednesday.
In a letter to parents, Hinson said district staff had learned that necessary staging areas for the demolition of the school would require the use of nearly all remaining green space at the site, including a play area and field that Trailwood students now use as a recess space.
Proceeding as planned, Hinson wrote, would have left the school without a playground area for the remainder of the school year, a distinction Hinson wrote “would not be in the best interest of our students.”
Rupp said that while the current recess space will be preserved for this school year, the delay means that children won’t have a play area when they come back to school in August and will likely not get a playground until mid-November.
For many parents, mitigating risk was worth slowing down planned construction at the school.
“It feels really good,” said parent Clare Snyder, who had advocated for the delay because she worried about dust — and the off chance of asbestos particles — releasing in the air during abatement and demolition. “Good to feel like our voices were heard. Everyone is really excited.”