District plans new central preschool in crafts and grocery stores

For several years now, the North Kansas City School District has had a capacity issue at Pleasant Valley and other preschool locations. This location is home to the Childhood Special Education program with only nine classrooms.

An opportunity to expand arose as the Board of Education recently purchased a portion of Prospect Plaza. Hobby Lobby which is approximately 115,000 square feet, and Price Chopper, which is approximately 120,000 square feet. With these two spaces combined into one building, the district plans on eventually making a new pre-K school to accommodate the growing population of students.

“We have been watching the expansion of pre-K for a while, and we’ve been working on what to do to manage our growth in pre-K. The decision to buy Price Chopper probably started in May or June, when we were notified that the Price Chopper had not renewed their lease and planned on moving out,” Superintendent Dan Clemens said.

Although no one with Price Chopper would comment on why the Prospect Plaza Price Chopper decided not to renew their lease, the decision did work out for NKC Schools. The Board of Education stated that they’re only interested in the two buildings (Price Chopper and Hobby Lobby) for right now, and not the whole strip mall.

With the size of Hobby Lobby and Price Chopper combined, they are about the size of a middle school. With the space provided by these two properties, around 41 to 45 classrooms will be installed to help support young learners in the area.

“I understand the competition is tough in this area. This is only a neighborhood store. You’ve got your corporate Hy-Vee and Walmart down the street. We just fell to the competition,” grocery manager Brian Williams said, on Price Chopper deciding not to renew their lease. Williams later added, “I’m not upset, this is a business decision.”

With Hobby Lobby and Price Chopper needing to be combined, the Board put DLR architects on the job, mapping how to rebuild the buildings in the best way possible in order to benefit NKC. Similarly, DLR is also the same group of architects that reconstructed the Kearney public school district office building. Clemens said the district building in Kearney offered a vision for the upcoming district building here in Gladstone.

“We were able to tour their (Kearney) facility to try to get a vision for what it could look like. And the architects that remodeled the Kearney grocery store are the same ones we’ve hired to do this one,” Clemens said. “But this Price Chopper and Hobby Lobby combined are about five times larger than what Kearney was able to do.

We have been watching the expansion of pre-K for a while, and we’ve been working on what to do to manage our growth in pre-K.”

— superintendent Daniel Clemens, Ed.D.

Much like Kearney also, this new district building will be located off of a busy main road, which could be concerning for parents with young children.

“The district building, if you look at it is probably somewhere in the middle so we can access it, so it’ll be more centrally located. We also purchased three-quarters of the parking lot, so we’ll be able to control traffic to ensure the safety of our young ones,” Clemens said.

While many of the district staff are ecstatic about this new opportunity arising, this may not be the case for some of the other people being affected by Price Chopper closing down. Clint Straehl, a student here at Oak Park, has been an employee at Price Chopper for a year and two months now.

Straehl said the building being shut down is disappointing. Price Chopper helped him grow as a person and improved his conversation and communication skills. Like many of the other employees, Price Chopper has given him many opportunities, such as meeting new people and becoming close with some of his coworkers.

“Well, I’ll have to transfer, which changed my daily routine. Even though I’m still a minor worker, I still have to deal with all the paperwork,” Straehl said.

Along with the hassle of having to transfer stores, there is also the matter of possibly saying goodbye to some of the memories made at work.

Straehl later said, “I’ve become close with some of my coworkers. It will affect my relationship with the. Some might transfer to the Price Chopper one Barry, and some might go to the one on Vivion. While some coworkers might not even transfer and find a different job.”

Along with the topic of transferring and given opportunities, some of the other employees, such as a manager, may not even be given the option of which Price Chopper to transfer to. Williams has been working at Price Chopper for four years. Alongside meeting new people, he has also shared some of the amazing experiences he’s gotten from Price Chopper.

“An old gentleman fell up front of the store, so we called the fire department. The gentlemen let me drive his car back to his house, which it was a nice car. I got to ride in the firetruck back to Price Chopper, it was my first-time riding in a firetruck. They had to stop the firetruck because I didn’t have my seatbelt on. Price Chopper brings a lot of new and interesting situations.”

But that isn’t the only time Williams experienced an interesting encounter while working at Price Chopper.

Williams said, “My best memory is probably when we had a customer named Anne, who is older and uses a mart kart. I was helping her with her walker because the tennis balls had fallen off the bottom of the legs on the walker. I put them back on for her. And another time, I helped a woman unlock her car. I’m not upset about us closing down, though. The impact this will have on me is at most a 45-minute drive to work now, rather than a 25-minute drive.”

Although Price Chopper has brought many new openings for its employees in the past, the new NKC schools district building will provide chances as well. New jobs will open for people looking to teach young pre-K, while half of the teachers will be brought in from neighboring Pre-K schools. In total, half of the teachers will be hired for the new building, and the other half will be transferred.

“This will be a great opportunity for us to assess the kids and provide supports to them before they start kindergarten and hopefully, they’ll have a better educational experience with us,” Clemens said. “We’re looking to open the center a year from this December. So, December of 2020. We would really like to open a portion of it in August of next year, when school starts.”