The bidding for Westport High School is a two-team race again.
The Kansas City school board has directed the district to let Kansas City Sustainable Development Partners back in the game to offer a proposal alongside the bid already made by Foutch Brothers.
The board reached a consensus in closed session Wednesday night, district officials said Friday.
Some neighborhood association leaders had been urging the district to let Sustainable Development Partners back into the process after the charter school Academie Lafayette dropped its plan to be part of the Foutch Brothers’ Westport proposal.
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Academie Lafayette instead joined with the district in a plan to give the charter control of Southwest Early College Campus to run an International Baccalaureate high school for both charter and district students.
The district earlier this year recommended that the board approve selling Westport to Foutch Brothers even as the district and Academie Lafayette were exploring the Southwest possibility.
The recommendation for Foutch Brothers was not contingent on Academie Lafayette being a partner, district officials said. Still, the charter school’s departure marked a significant enough change to some of the neighborhood leaders to warrant moving the repurposing process back a step.
The board decided the district should reopen the process to include both bidders, provided it conforms with the district’s repurposing policies, board president Jon Hile said.
Repurposing is a community process, he said, and “there was a tremendous outpouring of support” from many people who wanted the chance to see two proposals again.
Sustainable Development Partners’ E.F. “Chip” Walsh said earlier this week that the developer wanted another chance, that the circumstances had changed and that the district should follow the wishes of the community members in neighborhoods around the school.
“We’re pleased to have the opportunity,” Walsh said Friday. “We’re pleased (the neighborhoods) will have two plans to evaluate to go forward with this important decision.”
The news was discouraging to Steve Foutch.
“My win and contract with the school board did not require Academie Lafayette as a condition of the sale,” he said, “so I’m not sure why it is being an issue now.”
Foutch said he remained hopeful that Foutch Brothers ultimately would get Westport High and move ahead with its plans.
Foutch and Sustainable Development Partners had emerged as the top candidates when the district was looking at options to sell both Westport High School and Westport Middle School, which straddle 39th Street west of Gillham Road in midtown.
Both developers pursued plans for both buildings. The district chose to split the pie, choosing Sustainable Development Partners’ plan for healthy living, urban farming and innovative education programming for the middle school. The sale of the middle school was completed in January.
The district recommended selling the high school to Foutch, choosing its plans to develop a mix of residential and commercial uses, including community uses for the building’s sports and entertainment facilities. But a divided school board voted against the sale in late March.
Shannon Jaax, who is directing the repurposing process for the district, said the schedule moving forward needs to be determined.
Sustainable Development Partners does not currently have a proposal on the table for the high school. The developer probably will get some time to prepare its plan and present it to the community, she said.