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KCPS Ponders School in Brookside for Teacher Housing Closed in 2009 and mothballed in 2016, the Bryant school building may become a teacher hiring and retention tool. Community input sought by May 17.

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Above image credit: Kansas City Public Schools (KCPS) is considering converting the closed and mothballed Bryant School at 319 Westover Road in Brookside into housing for teachers. (Haines Eason | Flatland)
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3 minute read

A severe housing shortage, soaring home prices and the highest interest rates since the Great Recession are making it extraordinarily difficult for many to afford a home. 

Teachers are no exception. 

In response, Kansas City Public Schools (KCPS) has proposed repurposing the closed and mothballed Bryant School building (319 Westover Road) as teacher apartments. The public is encouraged to submit feedback via an online survey by May 17. 

“We’ve heard overwhelmingly from teachers how much of a challenge finding housing that they view as affordable to them is,” said community development and planning consultant Shannon Jaax of Jaax Street Partners. Jaax is a former KCPS employee who now advises public school districts.  

Jaax said KCPS teachers are “really excited” about the prospect of Bryant’s conversion to affordable rental units. She added that the district’s recruitment team hears “all the time” that housing is a barrier to working in Kansas City. 

“We’ve lost prospective teachers because of that,” she said. “This is a challenge, and we’re seeing districts around the country facing this and trying to work on it.” 

Community Meeting  

KCPS hosted an April 25 informational meeting at Hale Cook Elementary (7302 Pennsylvania Ave.) to get community input on the possible conversion of the Bryant School building. 

According to district-provided notes, about 50 community members were in attendance and raised questions about the potential number of units the building could accommodate (27- to 40-plus), the building’s status as a landmark, whether market-rate apartments are under consideration and other concerns. 

Jaax and KSPS Manager of Planning and Real Estate Jesse Lange noted that community members have also asked whether or not the school property will be rezoned. Officials stressed that KCPS won’t be rezoning the property.  

They said the district plans to go through a special use permit process and that the special use permit would be restricted to teacher housing. They also noted that if the district or a selected development partner tries to do something different, that permit can be revoked. 

View looking west from between the doors of the Bryant School at 319 Westover Road in Brookside. The school may be converted for teacher housing.
View looking west from between the doors of the Bryant School at 319 Westover Road in Brookside. (Haines Eason | Flatland)

At the community meeting, it was noted that KCPS is not new to this kind of venture and has “seen projects that include senior housing, affordable/LIHTC (low-income housing tax credit) and market-rate units.”  

Districts such as Lawrence Public Schools, and others across the country, are pursuing similar strategies. 

According to an EdWeek Research Center survey, “six percent of district leaders and principals said they provide teacher housing or a housing supplement.” An additional “two percent said they’ve introduced or improved those benefits in the past two years, in response to staffing challenges.”  

Teachers and support staff are also sounding the alarm. 

According to a 2020 National Education Association survey, 17% of educators and 22% of education support professionals “had ‘moderate to serious’ problems making rent or mortgage payments.”  

Tough Housing Math

Kansas City-based realtor Mary Hutchison attended the April 25 community meeting and is seeing the data play out in her day-to-day work. She agrees teachers are affected, but she also notes so are many other public servants. 

Hutchinson specializes in Brookside and Waldo, two neighborhoods that are centrally located and that have seen soaring home prices. 

“It doesn’t really matter if you’re a teacher or anybody else in that salary range,” she said. “With two earners, $250,000 to $300,000, a double-income household — two school teachers — could maybe afford something like that.”  

Maybe they could. KCPS recently raised starting teacher salaries from $46,650 to $48,150, which breaks down to about $1,852 on a biweekly basis. For two earners, that’s about $3,704 every two weeks, or roughly $7,408 in gross salary per month.  

According to the Bankrate Mortgage Calculator, a $250,000, 30-year, 7% mortgage with no down payment comes to $1,684 a month without taxes or insurance factored in. Add those two expenses, and you could be looking at a $2,000-or-more mortgage payment, which would be more than 25% of a two-teacher couple’s gross earnings. That percentage would certainly climb after taxes and benefits are taken out.  

“And you don’t want to buy a total fixer upper. You’re just trying to get in,” Hutchinson said. “So, the point is, with the current state of housing, I mean, it’s not just teachers. It’s a lot of people who are having trouble affording that first house, that first house that gets you on that rung of building some equity and not being a lifelong renter. It’s just very, very expensive.” 

Flatland contributor Haines Eason is the owner of startup media agency Freelance Kansas.

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One thought on “KCPS Ponders School in Brookside for Teacher Housing

  1. Thank you for the story about repurposing Bryant school.
    This is a wonderful idea!
    If it is workable, KCPS should receive financial support from the city and state.
    Teachers deserve and need all the help we can give them.

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