Selling schools exposes perceptions

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The sale of Westport Middle School doesn't surprise Edward Evans. The longtime Midtown resident has seen the neighborhood surrounding 39th street improving over the years.

"Ten years ago you couldn't get me to walk over there," he laughed.

Now a stroll with his fiance is routine. 

But in the Dunbar neighborhood near 35th and Hardesty, Kathy Presley says they are battling perception.

"It is a quiet neighborhood," she said.

It is far from perfect with a few boarded up buildings but they share the street with more than one perfectly manicured lawn and the empty Dunbar elementary school.

Recent crime statistics match Presley's thoughts. In the last 30 days, Kansas City police took reports of 102 incidents in the area surrounding Westport Middle School. In that same 30 days, police took reports of 12 incidents around Dunbar.

Presley isn't surprised. She says she knows almost all of the neighbors and walked the halls of Dunbar herself as a girl. Most of the families there, she says, have been there for decades.

Dunbar hasn't had a single viable proposal. School district officials admit they often hear from neighborhoods battling a perception of heavy crime that make a large investment like re-using a school scary.


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