Photo by Diana Percy
As the city of Westwood makes plans to update their community, SMSD has joined their efforts with the purchase of the Entercom broadcasting property. This 6.5 acre piece of land sits at 50th and Belinder. The land was technically approved for purchase as a location for future facilities development for the district. However, the citizens of Westwood have been vocal in their wish for the Entercom property to be used to construct a new building for Westwood View elementary.
The updating of the city of Westwood has been an ongoing process. The area by Joe’s Kansas City Barbecue has grown with the arrival of Taco Republic, a neighborhood Wal-Mart and Lulu’s Thai Noodles. New condos have also gone in near Woodside Country Club.
“The whole area of Northeast Johnson County seems to going through a renaissance,” said Westwood View and East parent Jessica Brockmeier. “The whole area seems to be going through a period of exciting growth and change.”
However as the city grows, the citizens want to make sure the school stays at the center of the city’s attention. Over the past few decades, Westwood View has been in jeopardy of closing because of doubt that the surrounding community was large enough to justify its own school.
Because of this, constructing a new building for Westwood View may seem counterintuitive, but the development of Westwood as whole is what residents are hoping will provide an influx of new students to fill the new school. Westwood resident and East junior Jessie Peterson believes that developing more family-friendly housing is the solution to gaining more school-aged children.
“We should have some sort of single-family housing, maybe some town houses that are a little more dense, but still single-family that can move in with more kids long term,” Peterson said.
Peterson’s idea for housing would be developed on the site where the existing school currently sits. But only if the plan to build the new elementary school ends up happening – which is likely, as Superintendent Jim Hinson spoke about its construction at the March 28 school board meeting. He suggested that a bond would be used in the future to pay for it.
The Entercom property, which currently houses several radio towers, has been mostly vacant over the past several years. The district officially purchased the property for $1,386,560 on March 28.
The original plan for the Entercom property was to build a senior living center. However, the plan never went through after it experienced community pushback.
“That never materialized as a viable option,” Westwood resident and East parent Kent Peterson said. “It would have put an industrial, commercial senior living building in the middle of residential neighborhoods.”
According to Brockmeier, most Westwood residents strongly supported the new school when they first heard about it.
“The existing building is fine and is cozy and facilitates a positive climate,” Brockmeier said. “But the district is replacing older buildings, and the new buildings are state of the art and beautiful and have plenty of storage for teachers and are wired for technology. They are just beautiful facilities.”
Whether a new school is built on the property or not, SMSD made it clear at the board meeting that the city and district are going to be working together.
“We want to make sure that we’re in collaboration with the city,” Hinson said at the March 28 board meeting. “We will have a conversation if we build on that site.”