KC district agrees to sell two schools

Alta Vista Charter School got the deal it wanted from the Kansas City Public Schools on Wednesday night — an agreement for it to buy a closed district building.

And a crowd of parents from the district’s Afrikan Centered Education Collegium Campus left the school board meeting with some hope that they, too, may still see a deal to their liking.

They want the district to renew a contract that would allow the African-centered program to continue under its current providers — a prospect that interim Superintendent Steve Green said is at least in discussions.

But Alta Vista had its crowd of supporters as well, cheering the board’s unanimous vote to sell Douglass School, 2640 Belleview Ave.

The agreement highlighted a recent rush of activity as the district works with the community to find new uses for 30 vacant properties.

An earlier sale of Longan School to Academie Lafayette charter school was finalized Friday.

On Wednesday, in addition to the agreement to sell Douglass, the board also agreed to sell Seven Oaks School, at 3711 Jackson Ave., to a partnership of developers with plans to convert the school to low-cost senior housing.

The sale, to a partnership of the Greater Corinthian Community Development Corp. and Mid-Continent Equity Partners, is contingent on the project receiving low-income housing tax credits, which will likely be determined this summer.

“We’re well on the way toward repurposing our schools,” board member Derek Richey said.

The fact that the district is willing to collaborate with charter schools — often viewed only as competitors — shows “we are very serious” about finding uses for the schools “for the betterment of the community,” Richey said

Board president Airick Leonard West emphasized that the district is collaborating only with charters that have performed as well or better than comparable district schools.

“We partner with schools that have earned that right,” West said.

Alta Vista supporters cheered, with shouts of “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!”

The district’s repurposing office last week also began public presentations where potential buyers showed their proposals for four other schools.

Kansas City Sustainable Development Partners hope to help make a new home for the Rockhill Tennis Club at Bryant School, at Wornall and Westover roads.

The same group wants to put low-cost senior housing and a health center in Blenheim School, at 2411 E. 70th Terrace.

Bingham School, in the Waldo area, has three suitors. Two have plans for grocery stores and a third has plans for several commercial tenants.

Proposals for Swinney School, just west of the Plaza, are still to come.

Blenheim and Bryant still have to be put out for sale through the district’s broker, so more offers are still possible. All proposals still have to go back to the district’s repurposing office’s internal committee, with possibly more public presentations, before they can go to the school board, said the district’s repurposer, Shannon Jaax.

The plans for Seven Oaks and Douglass moved quickly because the buyers’ proposals were solidly supported in the community, she said.

Alta Vista hopes to move its high school programs into Douglass by the fall of 2014, said Gilbert Guerrero, Alta Vista’s superintendent.

“People loved it,” he said of their plans. “They’ve also seen what happened to West High School (another school in the neighborhood that has been vacant and decaying for many years). They don’t want to see that happen again.”

Whether a rift between the district and the Afrikan Centered Education Task Force, Inc., can be repaired remains to be seen, but the chances looked better after a week of cross-accusations.

The district, which had already told the task force that its contract would not be renewed, announced last week that the district would run the African-centered schools.

Wednesday night, Dana Cutler, speaking for the Afrikan Centered Education Task Force Inc., told Green and board members that it believes an agreement can be reached and she extended “an olive branch.”

After the meeting, Green said, “We will keep on having conversations.”