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Wichita’s historic McCormick School faces uncertain future

Published: May. 6, 2021 at 6:39 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - The future of Wichita’s historic McCormick School is uncertain. The former school, now serving as the official museum of Wichita Public Schools is operated by volunteers who are retired staff in USD 259. Built in 1890, the school building is in need of serious repairs. Volunteers say the building and the history inside could soon be up for grabs.

The McCormick School Museum preserves more than a century of Wichita Public Schools’ history.

“It shows the decades of how the schools developed, and I just find it irreplaceable,” said Cynthia Davie, among those who want to save the historic school.

But McCormick’s upkeep is a demanding chore for retired teachers who volunteer there.

“There’s never a day that goes by there isn’t something to care for here,” said McCormick Museum Volunteer Curator Paul Oberg.

Just to stabilize the building will cost more than $800,000 and in total, Wichita Public Schools said fixing everything would likely be a $2 million investment. And since McCormick no longer accommodates students (closing as a school in 1992), the district said it can’t justify spending that much money.

Now, those wanting to save the historic site are left with two options.

“The end of the month, there’s been a request to make a decision on which direction we want to go. Either find a not-for-profit organization that’ll take responsibility and purchase the museum outright with all of its contents. Or move its contents down to the AMAC building and then the future of the (McCormick) building is up for grabs,” Oberg said.

A group of volunteers, including Davie, is working to prevent that and hopes to restore the historic school.

“We could take it over through a capital campaign tor raise the money to restore the building, ultimately restoring programs we once had,” Davie said.

At the end of May, the McCormick School Museum’s volunteers will meet with the Wichita school district before deciding the historic building’s future.

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