The bad news for Academie Lafayette parents Friday was that the school will not open its planned International Baccalaureate high school this fall, even in a temporary site.
And the picture going forward — concerning a dramatic proposal with Kansas City Public Schools to take control of the Southwest Early College Campus — remains cloudy at best.
“Right now the feeling is that it may not be possible,” Academie Lafayette board vice president Marvin Lyman told The Star on Friday. “Each side has some tough decisions to make soon if it is going to happen.”
The French immersion K-8 charter school and the school district are continuing negotiations to refine the proposal for Southwest that they revealed last summer.
But details have been hard to resolve and the district announced last month that it would keep Southwest as a district school in the 2015-2016 school year while talks continue. Academie Lafayette told its families that it was looking for options to open somewhere else for one year with just its charter students.
But time ran out, Academie Lafayette board president Chad Phillips said Friday in a letter to parents.
“I know many families, including my own, had hoped that Academie Lafayette high school would be an option for their child next year,” he wrote. “Like all worthwhile endeavors, this will take time and patience. … We cannot move forward with opening until we have a firm decision on the Southwest campus.”
The plan unveiled in June was a groundbreaking partnership between a district and charter school.
Academie Lafayette would take academic control of the school at 6512 Wornall Road, hiring its staff and establishing the curriculum. But the school would serve graduates both from the charter school and at least as many district students.
The school also could enroll other students who live within the Kansas City district.
While the students would be blended in the classrooms, students from the district would count toward the district’s enrollment and test performance records, and students from Academie Lafayette would be counted on the charter school’s records.
Supporters of the partnership see an opportunity to establish an attractive public high school that would help keep more families living in the city’s neighborhoods and boost the district’s declining enrollment.
But parts of the plan have proved too difficult in feedback from the community and in the ongoing negotiations.
The original proposal would allow Academie Lafayette K-8 graduates to enter the school automatically while district students would need to test in, similar to the selective process of the district’s Lincoln College Preparatory Academy.
The district also is having to work out options for current students at Southwest who might not qualify for the new school if there is a selective admission process.
The district and the charter are working through some changes in response to the feedback from both the district and the charter communities, said Jon Hile, Kansas City school board president.
“We’re still on track,” he said. “We’ve spent a long time working through (the concerns of the communities). I think we’ll have a chance to take (a new proposal) to the community soon.”
Families in Academie Lafayette remain hopeful that the high school plans will happen at Southwest, said parent Leslie Kohlmeyer, but families with children currently in the eighth grade are particularly disappointed. About 60 of the charter’s 870 students are eighth-graders.
“Their hearts were absolutely broken,” said Kohlmeyer, who has children in the charter school in kindergarten, third and fifth grades.
She is encouraged that leaders with both the district and charter say they are working to reach an agreement.
“All my eggs are in that basket,” she said.
The charter, which has a school for kindergarten through second grade at 3421 Cherry St. and a school for grades three through eight at 6903 Oak St., had prepared for the possibility the high school opening would be delayed, Lyman said. It held its high school fair this fall as in years past, inviting representatives from the various high school options to meet with parents and students.
The district and the charter school have talked many times in recent years about creating an internationally themed high school. The current proposal, run by Academie Lafayette, would not continue with French immersion programming but would include emphasis on multiple foreign languages and international studies.
The International Baccalaureate program is regarded as rigorous and globally themed. Lincoln has a baccalaureate program.
The district has been interested as well in an international school because some of its most popular elementary and middle school programs are the Spanish programs of Foreign Language Academy and the Carver Dual Language Elementary School.