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Kansas City school district is considering closing Wendell Phillips Elementary

Kansas City Public Schools has its headquarters at 12th and McGee streets.
Kansas City Public Schools has its headquarters at 12th and McGee streets. skeyser@kcstar.com

The Kansas City school district has another elementary school on the chopping block as officials draw closer to announcing a final master plan with boundary changes.

The revised master plan will be presented at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at a meeting at school district offices, 1211 McGee St. School board members will vote on the plan at their Feb. 24 meeting.

The latest school up for closure is Wendell Phillips Elementary at 1619 E. 24th Terrace. Parents are not happy about a proposed plan that would cost them their neighborhood school, and they’re ready to fight the district to save it.

Residents in the neighborhood around the school — just six blocks south of the historic 18th and Vine district — and parents say Phillips is one of the district’s highest-performing schools. It also gets community support from nearby workers who visit as tutors and volunteers on a weekly basis. A successful school in an area of the city that is being revitalized and turning the corner on blight and poverty is crucial, its supporters say.

“This elementary school is the best I have ever encountered regardless of its central city location,” said Gene Timmons, a Presbyterian minister whose wife volunteers at Phillips.

Wendell Phillips has 224 students, all getting free or reduced-price lunch, and a 96 percent attendance rate. It’s touted by teachers and residents as one of the “fully accredited” schools in a provisionally accredited district.

While the state does not accredit individual schools, Phillips in 2015 achieved 88.6 percent of the total 70 annual performance points the state sets for each elementary school to meet on the district’s road to full accreditation. The school gets points for how well its students score on state assessments and for attendance. For full accreditation, a school would need at least 70 percent of the total possible points.

“Why would you close a fully accredited school?” said Mike Brazil, a project engineer for Tension Envelopes who has volunteered at the school as a Youth Friend and teaching science for the last decade.

If the district were to close Phillips its students would likely go to nearby Crispus Attucks at 2400 Prospect Ave., which has a newer building and got 55.7 percent of its annual performance points.

District officials said they are considering more than student achievement — enrollment and facility condition also are reviewed — when considering schools that would close under the plan.

The district has been working on a master plan for its schools for more than two years with the objective of “developing stronger schools, stronger communities and successful students,” said Al Tunis, interim superintendent.

Since November, district officials have met with students, parents and community leaders to refine and adjust the recommendations, to be presented to the board Wednesday.

The administrative recommendations will include proposed closures, consolidations and attendance boundary changes that would affect about 15 percent of the students currently enrolled. Boundary changes will affect 16 elementary schools, two middle schools and three high schools.

In an earlier draft of the proposed master plan, school officials recommended closing Southwest Early College Campus, Attucks and Satchel Paige elementary schools.

Parents and residents in the area near Attucks requested the district reconsider the closure recommendation. Now Wendell Phillips is among the suggested schools for closure.

“Wendell Phillips is in an area with a number of neighborhood schools with low enrollment,” district officials said in a statement this week.

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

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