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Commission agrees to sponsor public charter schools in midtown

With a sponsor behind the proposed charter, Citizens of the World Charter Schools-Kansas City now needs the approval of the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
With a sponsor behind the proposed charter, Citizens of the World Charter Schools-Kansas City now needs the approval of the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. MCT

The Missouri Charter Public School Commission on Tuesday said yes to new grade schools in Kansas City’s midtown proposed by Citizens of the World Charter Schools-Kansas City.

“They have taken the time to do this right and the community should be very proud,” said Robbyn Wahby, executive director of the commission. “It is well thought out. I would put my child in this school.”

The commission, formed a year ago, voted by teleconference Tuesday morning, with six members saying yes to sponsoring the new charter and one member, Alicia Herald of St. Louis, abstaining. She has a fellowship through the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a sponsor of the Citizens of the World school.

The charter school commission was established to provide oversight of charter schools in the state. The Citizens of the World Kansas City schools are the commission’s first sponsorship.

“We are thrilled and look forward to our partnership with the commission,” said Kristin Droege, Citizens of the World Kansas City’s executive director.

“I think this is a dream come true for midtown families who not only were a part of” the group that started the effort “but also for those who want a high-quality school for their children,” said Luke Norris, president of the Citizens of the World Kansas City board of directors. Norris works for the national nonprofit Code for America and lives with his wife and 1-year-old daughter in Hyde Park, part of midtown.

The idea for the charter was developed in 2013 by a grass-roots effort led by midtown families known as the Midtown Community School Initiative. This parent-led group has teamed with the national Citizens of the World Charter Schools organization to open early elementary grades in two schools in 2016. It wants to gradually expand with a middle school and then a high school by 2027.

Citizens of the World has its headquarters in Los Angeles, where it has three schools. Two more schools are in Brooklyn. Many of the students attending Citizens of the World schools — 60 percent — are children of color, half qualify for free and reduced lunch, and a quarter are English language learners.

With a sponsor behind the proposed charter, Citizens of the World Charter Schools-Kansas City now needs the approval of the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Wahby said the state should have the application by Aug. 1.

“I anticipate the application will be on the State Board of Education agenda by October,” Wahby said.

Citizens of the World charter expects to start with just under 300 students and reach about 1,800 students after expanding to all 13 grades in 12 years. They intend to eventually operate four schools, including elementary, middle and high schools, all in the area bounded by State Line Road to the west, Prospect Avenue to the east, Union Station to the north and Brush Creek to the south.

No facility has been located yet.

School organizers, in their application, propose a school that would promote diversity by creating socioeconomically, culturally and racially diverse classrooms where “rigorous learning experiences” would be presented. It also proposes to provide midtown families the opportunity to continue living in the city while their children are in grade school.

The proposal says: “Our schools will be comprised of communities of students, parents and educators that are continuously strengthening the bonds among themselves and the larger communities in which we live and work.” The proposal also says that the Citizens of the World model “supports and depends on the development of connections through social-emotional learning” and allows for learning experiences to be adjusted to accommodate the level of understanding and background experiences of individual students.

“The dream moves one step closer to becoming a reality for families in Kansas City,” said Douglas Thaman, executive director of the Missouri Charter Public Schools Association.

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