The Kansas City school board agreed Wednesday night to sell Westport Middle School, but not without some backward glances.
By a 6-1 vote, board members approved a deal with Kansas City Sustainable Development Partners, led by architect Bob Berkebile, and its plan to turn the campus at 300 E. 39th St. into its Center for Community Vitality.
The district is still weighing options for Westport High School across the street, which means the heavy debate over the potential need for public schools in midtown will continue.
The Westport schools “were beautiful assets that brought together north and south, east and west,” board member Marisol Montero said. “They were a beautiful centerpiece.”
Berkebile’s group and Foutch Brothers made pitches for both schools with elaborate multi-use projects. Both make room for schools as well as residential units and community centers.
The Berkebile group’s plan for the middle school includes several nonprofit organizations involving healthy living and urban farming.
“We are piloting a new way of living, a new way of thinking and a new way of educating,” Berkebile said.
Both developers had hoped to win a package deal for both buildings, but the district was not ready to move forward on the high school and didn’t want to delay the sale of the middle school.
Foutch Brothers, which includes Academie Lafayette among its potential partners, also remains in the running for the high school. Academie Lafayette has been exploring opening an international high school.
Councilman Jim Glover wants to see both buildings used significantly as public schools. He believes the demand is coming as more people are moving into nearby neighborhoods.
“I am adamant that midtown needs those buildings repurposed as schools,” he said. “The demographic flow of parents and families into midtown depends on it.”