Pawnee Community One Step Closer to Opening Rebuilt Facility

Pawnee Community One Step Closer to Opening Rebuilt Facility
Shawnee Mission School District

Pawnee Elementary opened its doors to the community for a “Final Farewell” to the beloved building, established in 1965. It is a step toward the Pawnee Panthers moving into a rebuilt school facility later this calendar year. 

“For me, it’s emotional and a little weird,” said Eric Persson, who attended 5th grade at Pawnee in 1979. 

Persson was one of the many former students reuniting with some of his teachers for the first time in decades- including his 5th grade teacher, Orville Barrett.  

“They’ve all changed!” said Barrett about seeing his former students with families of their own. 

“That’s the fun part, seeing the students, because that’s what it was all about,” said former teacher Lee Ann Ramel.

There were tears, laughs and lots of hugs as former students and teachers visited their favorite classrooms and hallways.

“It feels smaller than I remember,” said one former student as she walked the library with her young daughter. “But the smells and emotions are the same. It was home.” 

Current Pawnee students passed out programs and helped guide the community around the building to the various stations. 

The cafeteria held a fundraiser for the 6th grade with dinner and dessert while the library hosted a book fair. 

Guests were encouraged to leave their mark on the building by signing walls and the mats in the gymnasium. 

One signature, outside of a classroom,  stood out among the many memories and dates: “Mikhayla Jean Ablard. Where I met my mom.” 

In 2015, Michelle Ablard was taking foster care classes and working as an innovation specialist at Pawnee. “I started working with a little girl who was very, very ornery,” remembers Ablard.  “She tested my patience a lot.”

The following year, Ablard was asked to take in two foster kids, both Pawnee students. 

“They told me the names and I was like, ‘bring them over,’” said Ablard.

Mikhayla and Dakota started living with Ablard after that call and “I realized why she was so challenging,” said Ablard of Mikhayla. 

The family has now been together for 5 years and Ablard formally adopted Mikhayla and Dakota last year. 

“This past summer we became a forever family. So, we met downstairs at my reading table,” said Ablard. 

“It’s heartwarming to be here again,” said Mikhayla. “Great things happened here but I’m excited to see the new building.”

The excitement for the new building was most evident with the current Pawnee students. Zoe Washburn is in 4th grade and said “I’m excited, but I feel like I’m going to get lost like a million times! I could probably walk around this school with my eyes closed.” 

The new building was made possible as a result of a $264 million bond issue approved by Shawnee Mission voters in 2021 and is expected to open for the 2023-2024 school year. The final day of operations at the former Pawnee building will be March 9. Students and staff will temporarily move to Indian Creek Technical Center, for the fourth quarter of this year.