Lewis Diuguid

Sad closing for school named for black renaissance man, Gordon Parks

A school closing is always a tragedy but not just for the children it serves.

The loss hurts the community, which then has to live with the vacant building. The closing also hurts all of the children who ever attended the school.

It’s as if a big doorway to every one of those persons’ past closes for good. Children in Kansas City Public Schools faced that when the district shuttered about half of its schools three years ago.

That is what the people at Gordon Parks Elementary School must confront now that the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has decided to deny the school a new charter. The closing additionally will affect family members and people connected to artist, author and filmmaker Gordon Parks, who grew up in Fort Scott, Kan., and had a close relationship to the school that carried his name.

It also will affect Operation Breakthrough, perhaps the largest preschool in Missouri. Many of its students continued their education at Gordon Parks charter school.

Gordon Parks at 3715 Wyoming St. served many underprivileged children — 94 percent qualify for free or reduced lunches and 16 percent are special education students, The Kansas City Star reports. But the school struggled unsuccessfully throughout its 13-year history to raise students’ academic performance.

Failure to do so caused the state to terminate the great effort to help some of the most underserved children in Kansas City. The students in the 2013-2014 school year can go to one of the Kansas City Public Schools, another charter school or a private school.

But their challenges are sure to transfer with them.