KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Kansas City, Kansas, crews battled a fire Wednesday at a historic former elementary school.
The KCK Fire Department said the fire happened at the former Franklin Elementary building near S. 14th Street and Metropolitan Avenue.
About two hours after crews were dispatched, the fire was extinguished.
Fire officials have not released any information on the cause of the fire, but there is significant damage to the building’s roof.
“It’s a big building. That’s why when the roof collapsed, for the safety of firefighters, we switched from offensive to defensive strategy, just to extinguish the majority of the fire,” KCK Assistant Fire Chief Scott Schaunaman said. “One of the citizens was asking me how the building is and if it’s salvageable, and right now, I don’t have an answer for you until we get inside.”
The former KCK school building has been on the National and State Registers of Historic Places since 2013, according to the Kansas Historical Society.
The building opened in September 1898 with four teachers and first through eighth grades to support the growing Argentine neighborhood at the time.
The school closed in 1973 and sat vacant for several years before it was sold in 1978 to the Franklin Center, Inc. The organization used the school as a community building for over 30 years.
“This is like a community staple. We’re obviously devastated,” Topher Phil Green, chairman of the Franklin Center Board, said. “It’s devastating to everybody involved. Lots of tears as we see people come up. This was the worst case.”
In 2009, the Franklin school was abandoned and boarded up, resulting in significant vandalism damage. But two years later, neighbors reinstated the Franklin Center, Inc. with plans to once again revitalize it.
While the group did make some improvements around 2015, the community center has not reopened. The Franklin Center still holds frequent mobile food pantries with Harvesters in the parking lot for KCK families.
“We’re just surprised and upset about what that will mean for that ministry here,” neighbor Emily Rietema said.
“It’s hard. I don’t know how it can bounce back. We will be looking to the future for other ways to be involved in the community. This is not the end of community involvement. This is sad for this building, no doubt, but it won’t be the end.”