Editorials

Revised KC schools plan should boost academic performance

Crispus Attucks Elementary School is to remain open in the new Kansas City Public Schools master plan and take in students from Wendell Phillips Elementary School, which is to close.
Crispus Attucks Elementary School is to remain open in the new Kansas City Public Schools master plan and take in students from Wendell Phillips Elementary School, which is to close. The Kansas City Star

A stronger comprehensive master plan for Kansas City Public Schools surfaced this week after three months of additional work and more than 100 community meetings.

Still, not everyone was happy with every part of the plan. Disruptions, including school closings and changes in attendance boundaries, are certain to unsettle students, parents and educators.

The master plan went to the school board in November but was sent back for more community input. The board is to vote on it Feb. 24 even though a new superintendent won’t on the job until later this year. District officials explained that decisions have to be made soon to be cost effective and fair to everyone involved.

Improving academic performance, keeping student-teacher ratios low and making schools stronger remain necessary goals. The district also will enhance extracurricular school activities.

But the master plan calls for closing the Southwest Early College Campus and two elementary schools — Wendell Phillips and Satchel Paige. Under the plan the board is now considering, Wendell Phillips’ students will go to Attucks, just a few blocks away.

Phillips is one of the better performing schools in the provisionally accredited district, and board members were right to worry that the school’s high rating could be in jeopardy. Some questioned whether the district should keep Phillips and close Attucks, which doesn’t perform as well academically.

But district officials contend that the students, volunteers and culture of academic success can thrive at Attucks, at 2400 Prospect Ave., which is a new building with more classroom space and air conditioning. Let’s hope they are right. The move to better facilities makes sense, if handled well.

Phillips, 1619 E. 24th Terrace, would become a district-sponsored charter school. The Kansas City Neighborhood Academy is backed by the Urban Neighborhood Initiative and the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce. Dianne Cleaver, Urban Neighborhood Initiative executive director, told The Star that recruiting for the charter school should be taking place now because the school is to open in August.

The charter school, which is meant to attract more students back into the district, would start offering kindergarten- through second-grade classes and eventually expand to sixth grade.

Southwest students could choose other district high schools. Most would move into the former Southeast High School. The plan calls for that school’s African-centered theme to be retained and enhanced in a “school within a school model,” and other college and career coursework would be beefed up to improve academic offerings.

The plan appropriately looks to the future as it slates Southwest to become a preferred site for a third middle school. Paige Elementary would become a preferred site for a third early childhood education/community school, filling another need in the district.

Year-round school for lower performing elementaries would be phased in starting in June 2017 at Banneker Elementary and more schools by June 2018.

If the master plan improves academics and leads to full accreditation, then the changes will be worthwhile.

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