Shawnee Mission School District’s newest elementary school is back on schedule for a spring groundbreaking and August 2018 opening, now that the Lenexa City Council has approved its final plans.
The council action allows the district to keep on schedule so the new Lenexa Hills Elementary at 87th Street Parkway and Haven Street can be open in time for school next year. Groundbreaking at the 25-acre site is planned for April or May, school officials said.
The school plans stumbled recently when the Lenexa Planning Commission failed to approve the final plan. The commission heard testimony from 12 neighbors on January 9 who were concerned that the traffic patterns for pick-up and drop-off at the school would cause congestion on Haven Street.
A few more neighbors attended the council meeting Tuesday as well. But because Mayor Mike Boehm asked them not to repeat arguments that were already in the planning commission minutes, only one of them spoke.
That spokesman, Alexander Wright, proposed a different alignment for traffic flow that he said would ease traffic. However, council member Tom Nolte, who has a background on the county transportation commission, said Wright’s plan wouldn’t work because the traffic would need to rotate counter-clockwise through the school.
Nolte said a new school typically increases property values in the surrounding neighborhood, and would generate less traffic than if the land was developed as apartments.
Council member Lou Serrone agreed, saying the periodic traffic congestion was a small price to pay for the benefits of having the new school. “You’ve got to take the good with the bad,” he said.
At the planning commission, some neighbors compared the new school’s traffic to that of Rising Star Elementary, further east near 87th Street Parkway. That school is known for traffic congestion. But school officials said Rising Star’s problems are due to the fact that it is the biggest elementary school, yet has the least room for cars. The Lenexa Hills School will have dual-lane queues with room for 83 vehicles, far more than Rising Star.
Some neighbors had also asked planning commission why traffic couldn’t enter and leave off 87th Street Parkway. But school and city staff said 87th, which is a main arterial, handled too much faster-moving traffic to be safe.
Ultimately, the council approved all school items on its agenda, which included rezoning, final plan, final plat and a special use permit allowing the school.
Finding a place for a new elementary school to serve the western part of the district has been a priority of the Shawnee Mission district. Lenexa Hills will sit close to Shawnee Mission’s western border.
The school will be two stories of classrooms attached to a one-story gymnasium. It eventually will house up to 550 pre-kindergarten through sixth grade students but will open with a smaller enrollment.