The Kansas City Public Schools needs to demonstrate consistent improvement and some bold strokes to regain the community’s trust. An unprecedented agreement with the Academie Lafayette charter school shows an encouraging willingness to be innovative.
Plans call for the district and Academie Lafayette to start up a high school that would offer the rigorous international baccalaureate program. It would be housed at the Southwest Early College Campus at 6512 Wornall Road, and could open as early as the fall of 2015.
High-performing Academie Lafayette would run the new school. It would serve graduates from the charter school’s French immersion program and Kansas City Public Schools students who pass an entrance exam.
The move puts children and families first and represents a radical departure from the often tense relationships among traditional districts and the charter schools that states have set up as alternative public options.
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Charter schools often have been viewed as adversaries of traditional schools, pulling funding, students and community involvement away from school districts. Many have failed to outperform traditional public schools. Some charters have closed.
But Academie Lafayette has been a success story, and the Kansas City district would stand to benefit from a joint endeavor.
The Southwest location offers cost savings and better logistics for the new school than an earlier plan for Academie Lafayette to be part of the reopening of Westport High School.
The school district must make sure students currently at Southwest have good options for continuing their education if they aren’t accepted at the new school. The district must also enhance the performance of all its high schools, including Lincoln College Preparatory Academy, which has selective admissions.
At this point in the district’s story, more and better options are needed. The agreement with Academie Lafayette has the potential to make Southwest one of the district’s signature schools. It could attract families who have been moving out of Kansas City or reluctantly paying tuition to private schools.