Thursday, July 27, 2017

Kansas City International Raceway gone too soon



By Brent Kalwei


In 1967, The Beatles proclaimed that “All You Need Is Love,” the Kansas City Chiefs played against the Green Bay Packers in the first Super Bowl and Chevy introduced the first Camaro. 1967 was also the year that the Kansas City International Raceway drag strip opened on Noland Road.
For 44 years, two lanes of asphalt provided KCIR’s spectators with entertainment one quarter mile at a time. However, the track that thrived for so many years seemed to be taken away from us all too quickly. The track closed on November 27, 2011. If still standing today, KCIR would be celebrating its 50th year. Although the space once occupied by KCIR now essentially sits as an empty lot, there is no doubt that the track provided many highlight moments.
KCIR housed premier events such as the Summer Nationals from the 1960s-1980s that featured National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) legends such as John Force, Gene Snow, Shirley Muldowney, Bill “Grumpy” Jenkins, Tom “the Mongoose” McEwen, Don “the Snake” Prudhomme and “Big Daddy” Don Garlits, who was selected No. 1 on the list of “NHRA’s 50 Greatest Drivers.” My father, at 13 years old, along with a standing-room-only crowd, witnessed KCIR’s 1976 Summer Nationals.
Dick Harrell, known as “Mr. Chevrolet,” who owned Dick Harrell Performance Center located on Hickman Mills Drive, raced at KCIR the first year the track opened its gates. Harrell won KCIR’s King of Kansas City in 1968. He was also the American Hot Rod Association’s (AHRA) World Point Champion, and named AHRA’s “Driver of the Year in 1969” and “Driver of the Decade” for the entire 1960s. Harrell tragically lost his life in a funny car crash in 1971 in Ontario, Canada.
Larry Larson, who owns Larson Race Cars in Oak Grove, spent many years racing at KCIR. In 2014, Larson became the first driver to complete the quarter mile in less than 6 seconds in a street legal car. Larson did so in his 1998 Chevy S-10 truck.
I’ve been a baseball player for 22 years and since I began my career, I have enjoyed playing it more than any other sport. But I have to tell you, when it comes to being a sports fan, there is no better spectacle to attend than a drag racing event. There is a sense of thrill when you browse the variety of sweet rides in the pits, hear the sounds of the engines and take in the side-by-side action as the cars roar down the track.
My dad, Donnie Kalwei, took me to my very first drag race at KCIR in 1992 when I was just 2 years old. I would be lying if I said I remember any memories I had of the track at that age. However, that was the start of something special. Beginning in 1999, I enjoyed the many times my father drove me to the track in his black 1955 Chevy, similar to the one in American Graffiti, and in his blue 1971 Chevy Nova. But, he didn’t just drive his cars up to the track, he raced them too. He consistently attended weekly grudge nights from 1999-2011.
In the same way I gained interest in drag racing thanks to my dad, so did he from his dad. Before there was KCIR, my grandfather raced at Kansas City Timing Association Drag Strip located on Front Street from 1957-1967. My dad also watched his dad race his 1962 409 four-speed Chevy Impala at KCIR in 1967.
One of my other favorite memories was getting the opportunity to watch racers like DeLon Joseph, Terry Murphy, Willie Brumitt, David Schorr, Mike Bodine, John Hocking and my cousin Justin Kalwei compete in the Kansas City’s Fastest Doorslammer race. Joseph, who created and raced in the inaugural KC’s Fastest Doorslammer race in 1992, was a five-time winner of the event. Joseph, Murphy, Hocking, Brumitt, Jack Schorr, Edgar Wright and Dwayne Robinson competed in the inaugural doorslammer race. For more than 15 years, the KC’s Fastest Doorslammer race was KCIR’s premier event. The event featured pro modified cars that reached speeds of over 200 miles per hour. To this day my favorite drag racing class to watch is pro modified.
I think I can speak for the many drag racing fans and drivers of the Kansas City area when I say that a part of us is missing without KCIR. Earlier, I mentioned why drag race events were so special to me, and I would be remiss if I didn’t say that the track connected all who raced and attended as fans.

“The drag strip was just like a big family,” said Joseph, who raced at KCIR on the very first day the track opened. “There were hundreds of people that were down there that you knew. You saw them once a week and that’s how you got to know a lot of people. I have people stop in my shop all the time and say, ‘we used to watch you race down there.’ The drag strip closing is one of the most destructive things that has happened to this city in a long time.”

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Missouri camp offers no limit to children’s potential


by Mary Wilson

Many Kansas City-area children spend their school year looking forward to summer vacation. And, for some, that means heading off to camp. Summer camp means friends, swimming and adventure. For one Kansas City girl, summer camp means overcoming obstacles, pushing herself past her limits and achieving things she never thought possible.

Emily Roots has attended Camp No Limits in Missouri for several years in a row. The No Limits Foundation provides a camp for children with limb loss or limb differences and their families in ten locations across the country. Last month, Roots, along with her parents, traveled to Potosi, Missouri to experience what she says is her favorite part of summer.

Kim Bergman, Clinic Manager for Hanger Clinic and a first-time volunteer at Camp No Limits Missouri this year, met and worked with Roots and her family during their stay at camp. Hanger Clinic is a sponsoring partner of Camp No Limits and provides a scholarship program for area children to attend that may not be able to afford it. Bergman, along with a prosthetist from her office, volunteered their time at the Missouri camp when they heard that helpers were needed.

“It was absolutely amazing,” said Bergman. “I’ve heard stories about how cool the camps were. The word ‘magic’ kept coming up. It really is, though. It is a magical experience.”

In talking with the Roots family, Bergman discovered that Camp No Limits is not all that known in the Kansas City-area. This year, there were only three children from the metro at camp.

“It really surprised me, especially with Children’s Mercy here in Kansas City, that there weren’t more families from this area,” said Bergman. “There is such a need to get the word out because it is such a great program. The number of families this could serve here at home is hard to even imagine.”

Hanger Clinic works with a number of families to provide prosthetic and orthotic patient care services, and provided the funds for one of the three Kansas City families to attend Camp No Limits. While there, campers are able to experience therapeutic programs with specialized professionals, including physical and occupational therapists, prosthetists and adult amputee role models.

Camp No Limits is the only camp for young people with limb loss and their families, creating a network of support for all the campers. Each camp is unique, but there are generally five programs offered each day. All activities incorporate family members as well, with specific group sessions for siblings and parents, when appropriate, to address the needs of families living with individuals with limb loss.

“These kids and these families see each other once a year,” said Bergman. “You would think that they live next door to each other by how close they are. There are some very emotional moments for everyone, and it is a family. I thought, ‘gosh, they only see each other one time a year. We have to change that.’”

Bergman got to work planning an event before school begins in the fall. She began to organize a Camp No Limits Kansas City weekend for Missouri families.

Emily Roots, according to Bergman and her family, is one of the biggest Kansas City Royals’ fans. She loves them so much, in fact, that she had a Royals prosthetic arm made for her, and last year was featured in Kansas City media with her request to have her arm signed by some of the players on the team, especially Eric Hosmer. While her wish didn’t come true, she did meet George Brett, who signed her arm.

In a few weeks, Camp No Limits Missouri families will get together and attend the Royals game on Friday, July 21. The weekend activities will continue into Saturday, where the children and their families will meet a congenital amputee who works for Hallmark as a graphic designer.

“She’s got an amazing job and makes it happen despite her differences,” said Bergman.
Roots, on Friday at the Royals game, will attend batting practice before the game and meet the players, take photos and finally receive the autographs she’s been wanting. However, because she is growing, her current arm no longer fits, so she will be sporting her new Royals prosthesis at the game that day.

“Whatever we can do to put a smile on the faces of these kids, we’re going to try and do,” said Bergman. “They are amazing kids with amazing capabilities, and we want to celebrate them in whatever ways we can.”

Camp No Limits, a division of the No Limits Foundation, relies on support from volunteers and donors. More information can be found at nolimitsfoundation.org. To support efforts in Kansas City, contact Kim Bergman at 913-397-7600 or email her at kbergman@hanger.com



Thursday, June 15, 2017

School-age childcare in area districts loses significant state funding

by Mary Wilson

Working parents understand the need for childcare. Those who live in the Grandview, Hickman Mills and Center School Districts have the opportunity to take advantage of programming designed to partner with families to provide before and after-school childcare at no cost. The Local Investment Commission, or LINC, was created in 1992 and is primarily state-funded. LINC gained additional organizational flexibility by becoming a 501c3 nonprofit in 1994.

However, LINC, along with other agencies who rely on the State of Missouri for funding, is working through a budget shortfall after the last legislative session to the tune of $1 million. LINC’s total budget for programming is approximately $10 million. With their model of building a neighborhood-schooling atmosphere, LINC offers Caring Community programming in seven metro school districts.

“The Local Investment Commission has been doing this for several years and we are operating in school sites with high family mobility,” said Brent Schondelmeyer, Deputy Director - Community Engagement for LINC. “They’d move from Hickman to Grandview, Grandview to Kansas City, and so on. But, there would be a LINC program in each of these districts, providing some sense of familiarity to the families.”

Schondelmeyer said that LINC offers activities and learning opportunities that simply aren’t available during the normal school day’s curriculum in the classroom.

“In surrounding districts, the cost of before and after-school care is expensive,” said Schondelmeyer. “These are low-income communities and the families’ ability to afford after-school care is pretty constrained.”

LINC has found that while many of the families that use their services could apply for childcare subsidy individually, the organization then took on that task for entire communities. The State of Missouri agreed to provide funding with the idea that school-aged care being provided in the school buildings themselves would provide opportunity for student enrichment.

“This was an opportunity to serve a large number of children in a familiar place,” said Schondelmeyer.

The organization expected to receive $2 million from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Appropriation in the Missouri General Assembly. It was in the Governor’s budget, in the House version of the budget.

“It then went over to the Senate, and at some point someone made the decision rather than $2 million they think it should be $1 million,” said Schondelmeyer. “The other half needed to go someplace else.”

With half of that budget gone, LINC knew as an organization the shortfall couldn’t be absorbed. Each school district was approached by LINC to discuss what programming would look like with less funding. LINC provided options to the districts: revenue-based and expense programming, a combination of both,  or decreased programming.

Center School District, according to Schondelmeyer, is looking at ways to absorb the costs into their own budgets. LINC serves two before and after-school sites in Center, with an average daily attendance of 282 students, while 401 students were enrolled last school year.

“We are currently looking at all options to address what is estimated by LINC to be about a $60,000 shortfall in funds to Center School District,” said Center public relations director Kelly Wachel. “We are working on a plan to make sure we are continuing to take care of our students and families impacted by this decrease in funds.”

In the Grandview School District, LINC serves an average of 726 students per day at five before- and after-school sites, with 1,080 students enrolled in the program. Next school year, the district, in discussion with LINC, has determined to change the childcare program from five days per week to four. A survey has been distributed to district families to share preferences on a Monday through Thursday program or a Tuesday through Friday program.

“LINC provides quality before and after-school care for elementary school age students in a safe, fun and caring environment that supports children’s social, emotional and physical development,” the Grandview School District email to parents read. “The Grandview C-4 School District and LINC are committed to continuing to offer these services at no cost to our families.”

In Hickman Mills, LINC serves 1,453 students on a daily basis at 12 school sites, with a total of 2,326 students enrolled in the program. Next school year, LINC before and after-school programming in Hickman Mills will be changing from five days per week to four. The plan is to offer the program Monday through Thursday, with no child care provided on Friday.

“When the funding issue was presented to our administration, we opted not to charge families a fee per student each semester, but chose to reduce the program from five days to four with no cost to our families,” said Hickman Mills incoming Superintendent Dr. Yolanda Cargile. “When there are budget cuts outside of our control, we have to make those difficult decisions. As a District and in collaboration with LINC, we have a solid communication plan in place to provide our parents adequate notice so they are able to make arrangements for the upcoming school year. It is our hope the funds will be reinstated so we are able to return to a full program in the near future.”

According to Schondelmeyer, LINC approached each school district to determine the best course of action going forward. The Kansas City Public School District is looking at consolidating programs into fewer locations.

“Our approach could have been to not offer programs at every school, which puts families in a difficult place,” said Schondelmeyer. “School districts are in the practice of figuring out budget cuts because they’ve been through several.”


LINC wishes to remain a free program for district families, and Schondelmeyer says the organization will remain optimistic that the funding will be reestablished in subsequent years. 

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Crime-ridden motels demolished to make way for further Cerner development


by Mary Wilson 

Two motels in Kansas City were demolished by contractor JE Dunn last week as a result of the original plans for the Cerner Innovations Campus to create more jobs. The approved plan included the parcel of property on the southeast corner of 87th Street and I-435. The motels served as some of the highest crime locations in South Kansas City.

“In addition to thanking Cerner for creating 16,000 new jobs in Kansas City with one of the largest projects in the country including billions of dollars of investment in South Kansas City, the project also creates $6 million for the Hickman Mills School District,” said Sixth District At-Large Councilman Scott Taylor. “Cerner will work with the district to create the workers of tomorrow through STEM programs.”

The City will also receive $2 million in infrastructure improvements in surrounding neighborhoods because of the Cerner project. After initial approval, Cerner had intentions of expanding the project to include the property with the motels.

“These two hotels were high-crime areas and creating a lot of work for our police department,” said Taylor. “Quite frankly, they could spend their time elsewhere doing other things.”

The Cerner Innovations Campus is the largest economic development project in the State of Missouri’s history, and the motels continued to be a nuisance in the area.

“The bottom line is, these hotels needed to come down,” said Sixth District Councilman Kevin McManus. “Hopefully small businesses and homeowners will see this investment, not just in removing this blight, but the investment in infrastructure and the investment by Cerner, and will see the opportunity to make their own investment in their community.”

McManus stated that the demolition of the motels serves as a symbol of promise for the area’s future. The A1 Hotel and Capital Inn, according to Major Louis Perez, South Patrol Commander, have used a lot of police manpower over the last several years, as the location was a breeding ground for crime in the area.

“The hotels ranked high in call for service demands for the division,” said Perez. “Crimes included homicides, assaults and prostitution, making it a nuisance business.”

Some crimes spilled out into the neighboring communities and businesses, according to Perez. He added that the demolition helps free up officers to answer other emergency calls and provides the opportunity to put officers back in their assigned neighborhoods.

“The surrounding neighborhoods and businesses are much safer and thriving because of the work that’s been done,” said Perez. One area business owner reported that they have seen a decrease in trespassing, panhandling and stealing.

“South Kansas City is on the move and we are going through a renaissance here,” said Missouri State Representative DaRon McGee. “We are getting statewide recognition and notice. This is just one step in the progress we are making.”

Former Councilman John Sharp, who has lived in the community for 50 years, said that his house is less than five minutes from the Cerner campus.

“I can’t tell you how pleased I was to see these motels start coming down,” said Sharp. “I remember when this Ramada Inn was very nice at one time, but it sure wasn’t nice in recent years.”


With the Cerner development, the area has also seen a revitalization of retail, and there is potential for new residential projects as well, according to Sharp. With the reclaiming of the property for a positive, public benefit to the community, Cerner, who has already built two new buildings, is expected to expand even further on the campus over the next decade. 

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

City opens solicitation process to design, build and finance new KCI terminal

KCMO City Manager Troy Schulte is opening the solicitation process for qualified companies interested in designing, building and privately financing a single terminal at Kansas City International Airport.

Schulte is directing the Procurement Division to publish a Request for Qualifications/Proposals (RFQ/P) for the KCI Terminal Modernization. The proposal will include the requirements that have been the focal points of recent discussions and will reflect what the airlines agreed to a year ago.

“The winning proposer would still go through the process of developing an MOU for Council approval," Schulte said. "This RFQ/P requires delivery of all the elements we want in a new terminal – convenient, close parking, better pickup and drop-off lanes, more seating in passenger waiting areas and other conveniences.”  

The RFQ/P will ask for proposals that:
  • Design, build and privately finance a 750,000 square foot terminal
  • Provide at least 6,500 spot parking garage
  • Include 35 gates, but  can expand to 42 gates
  • Reflect the design approved by airlines a year ago
  • Reflect the financing approved by airlines
  • Utilize local construction workers
  • Pay prevailing wages
  • Meet or exceed the City's MBE/WBE goals as well as workforce development or job training for local workers
  • Ensure the City retains ownership and operation of the airport
  • Meet LEED gold certification
  • Include 1% of the cost dedicated to the arts
"This is a win for Kansas City," Mayor Sly James said. "Our airport is the most vital investment we make in order to share our city with the world. And now we know firms are ready to compete to make our airport as world-class as our city."

A privately financed airport terminal idea is believed to be the first-of-its kind in the nation. An innovative model, the airport would receive financing through private investment, paid for by airport usage fees, with no funds coming from the City’s general fund, taxes, or existing bonds. The company selected would develop the design at their own risk.

The RFQ/P is being issued Tuesday, May 30, and will be due on June 20, which is a standard, three-week period. Companies submitting proposals should be prepared for in-person presentations on June 22 with the selection committee. The best proposal will be selected after reviewing all of the proposals and presentations.

The winning proposer will still have to develop a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the City -- a process that allows both parties to continue their due diligence prior to a public vote. Even during this process, the City will conduct public meetings to provide updates and answer questions.

“We will continue to have public hearings to keep our residents engaged in this community dialogue" Councilwoman Jolie Justus said. "Throughout this process we want to keep listening to our residents and to keep answering their questions.” 

The City will continue to own and operate the airport. 

“This RFQ/P ensures an open process that delivers the best deal for the city and our residents," Councilman Jermaine Reed said. "It also continues our commitment to local and minority hiring on this important project.”

Additional information can be found at  kcmo.gov/newkci.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

A Community in Ruins

by Mary Wilson

What likely began as an ordinary evening on May 20 back in 1957 quickly turned deadly as an F-5 tornado tore a 71-mile path of destruction, beginning in Spring Hill, KS, and bouncing through Ottawa, KS, Grandview, Hickman Mills, Martin City, Knob Town and Ruskin Heights. 

May 20th marked the 60-year anniversary of the tornado that thrashed through the area. Ruskin High School suffered extensive damage, including the almost complete destruction of the gymnasium that was supposed to house the high school’s graduation ceremony the very next evening. All that remained on the sign for the gym was a few haunting letters: RU IN.

The 1957 tornado, deemed the Ruskin Heights Tornado, took the lives of 39 people, with more than 500 injured. Roughly 400 homes were damaged or destroyed.

In the last few years, survivors, many of whom were young children at the time, have found solace and comfort through a social media group created on Facebook. With 673 members, “1957 Ruskin Heights Tornado Survivors CAUGHT EVER AFTER” is dedicated to providing an outlet for shared memories and a bond that has lasted a lifetime.

Dave May, who would later graduate from Ruskin High School, recalled that the horrific night brought the community closer.

 “As I sit in the comfort of my living room, I can't help but think about the tornado tragedy that happened in my childhood stomping grounds 60 years ago tonight, and the lives it took and changed and the people that were scarred for life,” May said in the Facebook group over the weekend. “I wasn't in the tornado, but lived in Ruskin then, and growing up I have heard many stories that were tragic and some that were a miracle. My heart truly goes out to the victims who suffered along the 71 miles the tornado was on the ground. After the tornado, it seemed to make Ruskin a little tighter, and neighbors knew neighbors.”

Diana Leonard’s family home sat just south of the tornado path, and while her family didn’t see extensive destruction to their property, the storm left a lasting impact on their lives.

“I was not quite six years old in 1957, and I well recall the events of that day,” said Leonard. “Our home was on the east side of the Kansas City Southern railroad and south of Ruskin, and was okay, other than a 2x4 stuck in our roof like a birthday candle, and the horrible debris scattered across our yard. 20 years later, my younger sister was set to graduate from Ruskin on May 20. We shared our girlhood room the night before and she was up and down all night and nervous as a cat. She said she had heard these things happen on a 20-year cycle and she was sure we were going to have another tornado. I tried to reassure her that we would be fine, but, wouldn't you know it, the early afternoon of May 20, 1977, a straight-line wind came through and toppled our dear old elm tree in the front yard, landing it squarely on top of my car! That will teach me to laugh at old wives' tales!”

Ellen Robinson, then a newly-advanced kindergartner from Tower School, took to the Facebook group to express her gratitude to other survivors of the Ruskin Heights Tornado.

“I graduated from the Tower School kindergarten 60 years ago today, and by that night it was obliterated into dust, leaving no trace,” said Robinson. “I'm friends with a few survivors, and I feel an unspoken kinship with them unlike any other of my friends. I'm grateful for them every day, and very thankful for this Facebook group, because I know there's a wound hidden in each of us. You think all trace of its trauma is gone, then there will be a particular chartreuse or pink in the sky, a scent of earth or electricity in the air, a news story, and instantly you hurt again.”


The memories from the Ruskin Heights Tornado of 1957 are everlasting, with the impact and the loss much greater than homes being destroyed. Loved ones were lost and the lives of the survivors were forever changed. Each year, the anniversary of the tornado is commemorated with the laying of wreaths at the site of the memorial in front of Ruskin High School. For 60 years, the Ruskin community has mourned the ruin and the devastation, but despite the tornado’s impact, the survivors continue to share their stories with each other and with the next generations. 

Monday, May 22, 2017

Southwest High may once again see students

by Brent Kalwei

The Uniting at Southwest group is proposing to reopen Kansas City’s Southwest High School as an autonomous public school to be under the umbrella of the Kansas City Public School district. Group representatives Mike Zeller and John Couture laid down some of their plans at the Sixth District Second Fridays meeting on May 12 at the Trailside Center.

“This is not a private school, this is a public school,” Zeller said. “Every child in that building would count as KCPS kids.”

Uniting at Southwest’s plan is to make Southwest into a diverse project-based learning school that helps students identify opportunity, conduct research, and work with others to develop solutions and essential skills in today's world.

“We don’t want to have a 1950s Southwest High. That was a racist, segregated-by-law public school,” Zeller said. “Nor do we want to create a situation like in 2015 where there was a school there, but there was not this vast neighborhood full of homes and children. We want a school that looks like the world that these children are going to graduate into and work in. That’s a school where everybody is there together; not only on racial lines, but class lines, too.”

“This is a time where we can look to be creative in how we view education,” added Couture. “I think this is such a great opportunity for the city.”

Zeller lives about three blocks from the Southwest High School building, which closed after the 2015-16 school year.

“We moved to that neighborhood so that our kids could walk to school up at Academie Lafayette,” Zeller said. “I had every intention of sending our son up the hill to Southwest High until the school closed. My oldest son made the bus trip up to Lincoln College Prep, which was on some days about a 50-minute bus ride. I remember thinking that is a long way. My son is commuting to high school. It just seemed odd at a great American city that a child would have to travel so far to go to a college-bound high school.”

According to Zeller, many people are leaving Kansas City and moving to cities such as Lee’s Summit, Raytown and Prairie Village.

“It’s just unfortunate and unnecessary,” he said. “It pushes down property values and lowers tax rolls. We have a big city with a lot of old infrastructure. We need those tax dollars, and we need those people living in city and contributing to the revitalization of the city.”

When Zeller took the innovative idea to the Kansas City Public Schools district last fall, they indicated that the school was closed because there was not enough demand for it.

“Maybe the supply wasn’t right,” Zeller said. “There’s a whole lot of people that would like to stay living in the city and even more people who would want to move into the city if they had choices that they wanted to choose.”

About 1,200 people have taken the group’s online survey.

“They have indicated that they would strongly consider sending about 1,350 children to this school,” Zeller said.

According to Zeller, quality integrated public education in the city was not a common belief by most parents about 15 years ago. But they do believe in it now.

“It’s a heavy lift to start a high school,” Zeller said. “You gotta start strong. If you trip coming out of the gate, you’re done. Reputation is destiny. You have to plan it really well. You have to hire a leader a couple years in advance.”

The Bloch, DeBruce, McDonnell and Stowers Foundations are funding the Uniting at Southwest group’s research and development efforts.

“We explained our vision to them,” Zeller said. “They said, ‘We’ll back your research and development efforts; and if you can pull it off, we will get behind all of these upfront costs it takes to start a public school.” 

Zeller listed the UMKC Dental School of Law and Penn Valley as examples of institutions that are helped out by philanthropic resources.  

“In Missouri right now, there is no funding mechanism to start schools like this,” he said. “Missouri’s just a school district model that worked great in the 1940s, 50s and 60s when cities were growing, and we were knocking down cornfields and putting an elementary school at the edge of the metro. Then people would appear and it would fill up. We have a different situation now that requires third-party assistance.”

According to Zeller, if Uniting at Southwest is unable to partner with Kansas City Public Schools, the group plans to partner with an existing charter school or create their own charter school.

“We have the funding to do that,” he said. “It would be a waste of philanthropic and public resources to have to do that, and it would break my heart. But we are prepared to do that if we need to.”

Uniting at Southwest’s plan is to begin with just freshmen during the first school year.


“I think at its peak it had about 2,500 kids at the height of the baby boom,” Zeller said. “We would never want a high school that big. They’re too anonymous. Kids don’t know each other and the teachers don’t know them. We think that the sweet spot is around 800 or 900 kids, and you would want to get to get there slowly. Every year you would want to add one grade.”