Archive for Saturday, June 6, 2009

Kansas City, Mo., district suggests closing 13 schools

June 6, 2009


— Kansas City public school officials have proposed a plan that would close 13 schools as the district struggles with costs and declining enrollment.

The Board of Education is expected to agree on a final plan and budget by the end of June. A public hearing is scheduled for June 15.

Under the plan, unveiled Thursday, seven elementary schools would merge with other schools while two eighth-grade centers would be phased out.

Two previously closed schools being used as temporary sites would close again.

The district’s alternative K-8 program would move to another site, and a training school for Montessori teachers would close.

The district would shrink from 64 schools to 51. It would potentially save $4 million to $5 million.

The plan came out of two hours of budget discussions Thursday, the last of three meetings grappling with an expected 16 percent loss of revenue, from $274 million to $230 million.

“It’s been a very difficult year,” said board member Arthur Benson II. “We’ve asked a lot of critical questions. … We’re not where we want to be, but change is palpable. Once you get a taste of better schools, the desire for more feeds on itself.”

Besides closing schools, the district plans to cut about 300 teaching positions, more than 50 building administrators and 20 central-office jobs. While attrition is expected to take care of most of the cuts, layoffs are possible.

The district also is reducing pre-kindergarten programs.

Kansas City’s district has elementary schools that face state sanctions, as well as buildings without air conditioning or needing other major repairs.

Officials said they want to send students in closed schools to nearby schools and to consolidate seventh- and eighth-grade classes that have too few students.

They’re also trying to fix problems created when a conversion to K-8 schools drew enrollment away from a middle school that feeds a fine arts and performing arts academy.

The plan doesn’t change any school district boundaries or propose changes to middle or high schools.

The district has closed, sold or knocked down more than 35 buildings since the late 1960s, when enrollment peaked at around 75,000. Next year, enrollment is expected to fall again from 18,178 to less than 17,000.

Many buildings this year were less than half full.

Competing charter schools enrolled almost 8,000 students last year and are expected to increase that in the fall.

Parent Yvonne Boyd, who chairs the District Advisory Committee, said she was sure the school closing plan would be modified but thought it had a chance of passing.

“It’s a balancing thing,” she said. “I think there is something to work with here. The bottom line is: I’m hoping parents will believe the district is here to teach their kids with the best possible education. We have to make changes.”


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