New education fund in Kansas City just gave nearly $2 million to two charter schools

SchoolSmartKC announced a gift of nearly $2 million to help some Kansas City charter schools.
SchoolSmartKC announced a gift of nearly $2 million to help some Kansas City charter schools. KRT

Two area charter schools got a hefty infusion of cash this week from area philanthropists who have pledged to help improve public education in Kansas City over the next 10 years.

SchoolSmartKC, a new collaboration funded by the Kauffman Foundation, the Hall Family Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation, announced late Tuesday that it is investing nearly $2 million to help open a new middle school for Crossroads Charter Schools, support the initial design of Crossroads High School, and to help fund the expansion of Scuola Vita Nuova, a charter in Northeast Kansas City.

Over the next three years, Crossroads will get $1.32 million from SchoolSmart to support creation of its Quality Hill Middle School. Between the middle and the high school, the SchoolSmart support will allow Crossroads to educate more than 700 more students.

The money, said Dean Johnson, executive director of Crossroads, “will help us build a strong, sustainable program early rather than have to wait until we are big.” He said data show that “charter schools that struggle coming out of the gate have a tough time recovering. This will allow us to be strong at the start.” Crossroads opened in 2012 and expanded to include middle school in 2016.

Scuola Vita Nuova is getting $621,000 for expansion through the 2023-2024 school year. School principal Nicole Goodman said the gift will help pay salary for more teachers and training and allow the school to double its enrollment, making room for an additional 207 in kindergarten through eighth grade.

Goodman said Scuola Vita Nuova expects to add another section of each grade from kindergarten through second grade next school year. In subsequent years, the school plans to add one to two additional grades each year.

“This is really very important for us,” Goodman said, adding that without the financial help from SchoolSmart, her school might not be able to afford the highly needed expansion.

Currently, Goodman said, to make room for more students, Scuola Vita Nuova is renovating unused space in the school building and will move middle school grades into that area. The school, which started in Kansas City in 1999, opens each year with a wait list, Goodman said.

The two latest investments represent the third in a series of investments announced this month by SchoolSmartKC. The organization previously awarded $563,000 for the Communities in Schools program benefiting 10 schools and also awarded up to $2 million to 12 select schools showing academic promise in the Kansas City Public School District.

SchoolSmart has pledged to put more than $50 million in to helping improve student performance and toward closing the achievement gap for students from low-income households, within the next decade.

In a statement earlier this month, SchoolSmartKC officials said the organization wants “to double the percentage of Kansas City schools and students that demonstrate performance at or above the state level over the next 10 years.”

The effort is targeting Kansas City Public Schools and public charter schools within the city’s district boundaries.

Mará Rose Williams: 816-234-4419, @marawilliamskc