April 4, 2013

Plan would make Lincoln Elementary a crisis center for child abuse victims

A vacant Wichita elementary school would become a support center for victims of child abuse, according to a proposal Wichita school board members will consider Monday.

A vacant Wichita elementary school would become a support center for victims of child abuse, according to a proposal Wichita school board members will consider Monday.

The Child Advocacy Center of Sedgwick County has agreed to pay $260,000 for the former Lincoln Elementary School, 1210 S. Topeka, just south of downtown.

The nonprofit center hopes to turn the 22,000-square-foot school into a one-stop crisis center for victims of physical and sexual abuse, human trafficking and Internet crimes. The center would include law enforcement officers, doctors, nurses, prosecutors, therapists and officials with the Exploited and Missing Child Unit of Sedgwick County.

“We’re very excited about our opportunity here,” said Diana Schunn, executive director of the Child Advocacy Center, which currently works out of the State Office Building downtown.

“The plan is for us to continue to work on putting the structure together in a format that will be efficient for children and allow us to be able to provide services in one location.”

Schunn said the purchase would be financed through grants and private donations. The agency’s annual operating budget is about $465,000, which comes from public and private funds.

Lincoln Elementary is the oldest of four elementary schools that closed last spring as part of boundary changes and cost-cutting measures. The appraised taxable value of the school and surrounding property is about $939,000, according to Sedgwick County tax records.

Built in 1938, the school got a $1.3 million expansion from the 2000 bond issue, including a new library, classrooms, restrooms and other improvements. That work was completed in 2005.

Before it closed, the school was slated to get another $900,000 in work – a five-classroom addition that would double as a storm shelter – as part of the 2008 bond issue.

School board members are expected to vote Monday to declare Lincoln Elementary as surplus property, which would allow the deal to move forward. The board likely would vote on the sale at its next meeting, April 22.

Superintendent John Allison has recommended approving the sale “because of the expense involved in maintaining the property” and because “the proposed use of the property by the Child Advocacy Center would benefit the community at large,” according to an item on the board’s agenda.

Lynn Rogers, president of the Wichita school board, said the new center would be a “great thing” for the district and the community.

“I can’t imagine the board being against it because of what it will do for kids,” Rogers said. “It does support kids, and that’s what we’re all about.”

Over the past few months, the district has sold two former elementary schools at auction.

The former Booth Elementary School, 5920 E. Mount Vernon, was auctioned in July to Hope International Fellowship, a nondenominational Christian church that paid $83,000 for the property. The appraised taxable value of the property is $321,890, according to Sedgwick County tax records.

The former Mueller Elementary, 2821 E. 24th St. North, sold at auction to a housing developer in February for $56,000. The appraised taxable value of the school and surrounding property, just northwest of 21st and Hillside, is more than $1.7 million.

Between 2007 and 2009, the district also bought six properties near Lincoln Elementary, along the 1200 block of South Emporia, at a cost of nearly $300,000. Officials were considering using the property for additional parking, bus loading and playground or outdoor space.

A new location would allow the center to house different agencies under one roof and decrease the travel time families experience by having to travel to different areas of the city to receive support services, she said.

County Manager William Buchanan said he thinks the former school would work well as a crisis center.

“It’s a downtown location, and it will work for their mission,” Buchanan said Thursday. “I’m excited that they are going to have a place where they can efficiently deal with clients.”

In recent years, Wichita school officials have closed and sold a number of school buildings:

• In 2006, the district sold the former Kellogg Elementary building, near Kellogg and Washington, to a Kansas City developer for $280,000.
• In 2007, it sold the former Alcott school building near Wesley Medical Center to developer Don Vaughn for $175,000.
• In 2008, the board approved the sale of the vacant Carter Elementary building, 4640 E. 15th St., to the Wichita Catholic Diocese for $300,000 in a lease-to-own agreement.

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