Painting owned by Shawnee Mission high school might be worth a million dollars

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OVERLAND PARK, Ks. -- After some have questioned whether the Shawnee Mission School District still has artwork that may be worth $1-million, school leaders Thursday displayed the valuable painting for FOX 4 News and explained why they now keep it from public view.

Shawnee Mission students bought the Thomas Hart Benton painting in 1957. They spent $750 on it as a gift for Shawnee Mission North High School.

But for the last six or seven years, there's been a reproduction of the painting in the library of the high school, where for years previously the original had been displayed.

The district says in 2008 the painting was appraised at $700,000 and some say it's probably worth much more today.

On Thursday, school leaders brought the painting out of storage to show us that they haven't lost it, it hasn't be stolen, and it's not hanging in some former superintendent's living room.

"We had to take it from it's secure spot, which was a vault, which was in one of the high schools, and we moved it," said John Douglass, director of safety and security for the school district. "We moved it up to this location. I can tell you it will not be returned to that location. It will be put into another safe area where we can keep it protected until we can make an informed decision on the best way to expose it to the public and do it in a responsible and safe way."

Alumni who helped purchase the painting as a gift want it to be displayed and appreciated. But Douglass says a million dollar item poses a danger to students and staff hanging on the wall at school. There are thieves who would put innocent lives at risk to steal it.