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Despite passionate pleas from parents, Kansas City board votes to close three schools

Kansas City board votes to close three schools

The Kansas City school board Wednesday night approved a district plan that will close several schools and move thousands of children around despite passionate pleas from parents for the board to reject the proposal.
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The Kansas City school board Wednesday night approved a district plan that will close several schools and move thousands of children around despite passionate pleas from parents for the board to reject the proposal.

The Kansas City school board Wednesday night approved a district plan that will close several schools and move thousands of children around despite passionate pleas from parents for the board to reject the proposal.

With the approval the district will, among other things, shut down one of its highest-performing elementary schools, Wendell Phillips Elementary, and move those students into a newer building, close two other schools and change the district’s only African-Centered Preparatory Academy into a comprehensive neighborhood school.

Members Amy Hartsfield and Marisol Montero voted no.

Ten parents and teachers begged the board not to go with the plan, which district administrators said they have worked two years to develop.

“This plan boils down, to me, that we are looking at dollars and cents and not looking at the children,” said Monica Spivey, a parent of a child at Crispus Attucks Elementary, which under the plan is set to receive students from nearby Wendell Phillips.

Wendell Phillips would close and that building be turned over to a district-sponsored charter school — Kansas City Neighborhood Academy. About 190 students attending Attucks would be moved to other schools closer to their homes.

Parents, who described their schools as communities where teachers care deeply about the children, said the plan proposed by the district was too disruptive for students. Including the proposed closures, consolidations and attendance boundary changes, the plan would affect about 15 percent of the 14,000 students currently in the district. Boundary changes will affect 16 elementary schools, two middle schools and three high schools.

“Your current plan is ill-conceived and irresponsible and it comes at too great a cost to children,” said Mindy Wilson, whose daughter is in third grade at Attucks Elementary. “I asked the board to find a better way.”

Interim superintendent Al Tunis said the district has been working on the $8 million plan for nearly two years. He said savings from building closures would offset the cost of implementing the plan. It is designed, he said, to “develop stronger schools, stronger communities and successful students.”

The Kansas City school district lost state accreditation in 2012 because of low performance and has been working toward regaining that status ever since. In October 2015 the state granted the district provisional accreditation for the second year.

Tunis said the district considered the performance of each school, plus transportation, boundaries and facilities, when deciding which schools would close.

The approved plan also would:

▪ Close Southwest Early College Campus and Satchel Paige Elementary School.

▪ Reconfigure school attendance boundaries.

▪ Reduce the distances that students walk to school.

▪ Reduce the number of students per classroom phased in over two years.

▪ Implement college and career pathways for high schools.

▪ Phase in, over two years, year-round school for four of the lowest-performing elementary schools, starting with Benjamin Banneker Elementary in June 2017.

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

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