Legal loophole allows local district to demolish buildings without discussion

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by Lauren Trager / News 4

KMOV.com

Posted on October 2, 2013 at 11:14 PM

Updated Wednesday, Oct 2 at 11:20 PM

 (KMOV) -- News 4 has discovered a legal loophole allowing a school district to demolish any building it chooses.

One city leader argued the loophole is absolutely unfair and it could mean that residents’ voices are silenced on whether to save historic schoolhouses built with their tax dollars.

A number of people in the Tower Grove East Neighborhood are very upset about the district’s proposals to consolidate elementary schools in the area and build a brand new one there.

But even though they gathered Wednesday to express their strong opinions, News 4 got a hold of documents which stated the district has the authority to tear down the Shenandoah Elementary School building anyway.

City alderwoman Christine Ingrassia said right now, the school district can level public buildings without the same oversight required for other historic buildings.

“They have the power to move forward with whatever they think is best and I think that’s unfair for city residents,” she said.

On Wednesday, people heard the city’s two proposals for the aging facility: renovate and add on, or completely tear it down and start over.

“Either way we want to make sure we are providing the best facility possible,” said Rachel Seward, Deputy Superintendent of Institutional Advancement with the district.

Both options have the same $17 million price tag.

District leaders say while they don’t take demolition lightly, it’s up to the board. “Ultimately they will make their own decision,” Seward said.

But residents say they should have the biggest say.

“A fresh coat of paint goes a long way, so let’s look at what we can do instead of tearing them down and rebuilding,” said parent Patrick Cummings.

Ingrassia is now working to close the loophole, proposing a bill that would change the law.

But time is ticking. The district could move forward with plans for Shenandoah Elementary School by the end of the month.

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