Kansas City Public Schools’ partnership with the French immersion charter school Academie Lafayette is proving to be a difficult proposition.
A groundbreaking proposal to give the charter school control of Kansas City’s Southwest Early College Campus has been put off at least until the fall of 2016.
The district sent home a letter to Southwest parents Wednesday telling them the school will remain the district’s school for the 2015-2016 school year while negotiations continue.
The charter school, meanwhile, is trying to secure a temporary site to open its planned International Baccalaureate high school for the fall of 2015. The school has told its families it will give them a definitive answer by Jan. 9 if the charter will be able to open a high school next fall.
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“The high school will happen,” Academie Lafayette spokeswoman Katie Hendrickson said Thursday. “If it doesn’t happen for 2015, we will restart the clock (for a 2016 opening). Those darn buildings are not plentiful in Kansas City.”
Some of the difficult negotiations have centered on equitable enrollment. The original proposal, presented for public review earlier this year, called for Academie Lafayette to take control of the operation of the school at 6512 Wornall Road.
Students who graduate from the charter school’s K-8 program could automatically enroll in the school. However, students in Kansas City Public Schools and other students living in the district’s boundaries would have to test in, similar to the selective admission at the district’s Lincoln College Preparatory Academy.
Many patrons of the district raised concerns about the testing requirements, and many were concerned about what opportunities would be available to Southwest’s current students who might have to change schools.
The district administration and school board saw the partnership as a chance to join with a popular charter school program and attract families to the district from the southwest and other areas of the city who have mostly abandoned the district. The noncharter students admitted to the school would count for the district in enrollment and test scores.
That’s still the working plan, Superintendent Steve Green said, although more time is needed to secure a better deal that responds to the concerns both the district and the charter have heard in the community.
“We entered this process with the preference to be thorough over rushing,” Green said. “We expect to come before the community early in the new calendar year with a new set of terms … and then we will seek input on the new terms.”
Green said he expects the revised proposal to address the concerns over equity. And they also will fill in many of the operational details that had not been clarified last summer.
“There has been a lot of dialogue,” Green said. “That’s being entrepreneurial. It creates a lot of thinking, a lot of opportunities for collaboration and problem solving. We’re doing that right now.”
Meanwhile, Academie Lafayatte is continuing to build up its staff for the high school and develop its International Baccalaureate curriculum, Hendrickson said.
“We’re asking parents to be patient and bear with us,” she said. “A temporary location is a possibility. I know many of our parents would like that.”