Thinking Inside the Box

Turning Vacant Box Stores Into Early Learning Facilities

North Kansas City Schools Early Education Center

As seen in Getting Smart, by Mason Pashia (April 12). 

In Kansas City, there is a bit of an architecture resurgence occurring. It’s all about repurposing buildings as schools, and it’s spearheaded by DLR Group, a prominent leader in the education architecture space.

The work was first fully realized as a response to the Joplin, Missouri tornadoes of 2011. The city needed to set-up an interim district that would be able to repurpose the buildings that survived the storm. DLR Group worked fast to convert a Wal-Mart into a school, and that was just the beginning.

Years later, DLR Group was at it again, this time in Kearney, Missouri. Here, the team had converted a grocery store into a school. Enter the North Kansas City (NKC) School District. The NKC Schools team visited Kearney and left inspired to create a centralized early childhood building. Their old building was in need of repairs and by bringing the bulk of their programming together, they were able to add additional early education programs. This district is the third-largest in Missouri and the impetus for taking care of their early learners was that they “knew that’s where it all starts. They found a way to do it economically and innovate,” says Ian Kilpatrick, one of the head project managers on the school. They turned a pre-existing structure (a Hobby Lobby and grocery store) into a magical place for young learners.

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