A new era for education in Sugar Creek

When the Sugar Creek community built a new elementary school in 1955, residents wanted the Kansas City School District to operate it.

Things have changed, as evidenced by ceremonies held last week at the new Abraham Mallinson Elementary School, which will open next month in Sugar Creek and be administered by the Independence School District.

“Young families wanting a quality education are returning to Sugar Creek and western Independence,” Ann Franklin, president of the Independence Board of Education, told those assembled in the gymnasium of the new school at 709 N. Forest Ave.

“This is a symbol of a community that cares about good education.”

In 2007, voters approved an annexation by the Independence School District of six schools in Sugar Creek and western Independence then being administered by the Kansas City school district.

Many residents of those areas long believed the Kansas City district’s administration of those schools was sufficiently lackluster to discourage young families from buying homes in the area.

Sentiments were much different in January 1955 when residents of Sugar Creek — which then operated its own school district — petitioned the Kansas City district to operate its schools, among them the new elementary school.

In a vote that January, residents overwhelmingly supported the annexation, 416 to 8.

By 2007, however, many Sugar Creek residents wanted out, and the Independence district began operating the annexed schools in 2008. That included the Sugar Creek elementary built in 1955 at 11424 Gill St.

From 2008 through 2011, enrollment for the six annexed schools increased more than 26 percent.

The Mallinson school has emerged as a symbol of the annexation that initially added about 2,400 more students to the district just in the western Independence and Sugar Creek areas, said Dale Herl, the Independence district’s new superintendent.

“We have enrolled 950 more kids since then,” Herl said.

In November 2009, more than 68 percent of district voters approved the $85 million bond issue that financed the construction of the new Mallinson school, as well as Little Blue Elementary in eastern Independence, which opened a year ago.

Victor Callahan, the former Missouri state senator who helped lead the annexation effort, was pleased by last week’s ceremony.

“It’s just so gratifying to see the community continue to support the effort made back in 2007,” Callahan said.

“I feel privileged to continue to be a part of it. It’s been transformational for this community.”

The school district purchased the property from John Mallinson, the grandson of Abraham Mallinson, an eastern Jackson County pioneer and strong believer in education.

Last week members of the Mallinson family, lining up to cut the ceremonial ribbon, stretched almost the width of the new school’s basketball court.

“I do wear many hats,” said Matt Mallinson, the recently elected mayor of Sugar Creek, as well as vice president of the Independence Board of Education.

“But it’s the Mallinson hat that I am most proud of.”

Last week’s ceremony included the unveiling of the new school’s mascot: a Cardinal.

The nearby Sugar Creek Elementary School will enroll students in kindergarten and first grade. The Mallinson school will educate students grades two through five.

Open enrollment for all district elementary students begins July 30. For more information, go to www.isdschools.org.