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Kansas City Public Schools Courting Families That Have Left District

Elle Moxley
KCUR 89.3
Colorful banners promoting Kansas City Pulic Schools line the sidewalk Monday outside the Board of Education. The district is recruiting new families at enrollment fairs this week.

Kansas City Public Schools is pushing hard to get students enrolled before school starts Aug. 14.

Director of Enrollment Garrett Webster says that in the past, some schools have had 100 kids just show up on the first day.

But an email announcing the enrollment fairs suggests that their purpose is not simply to welcome new students to the district.

“We're encouraging families to do the right thing for their children's education by coming back to KCPS,” it reads.

It’s a bold proclamation from a district that until recently seemed headed for a state takeover. For the first time in years, KCPS last fall received an accountability score from the state that qualified it for full accreditation. Earlier this month, the district announced it was exploring the possibility of reopening Lincoln Middle, one of the many buildings mothballed in 2010 after decades of declining enrollment.

“Kansas City Public Schools is just a microcosm of Kansas City itself. I think the bigger picture is we have families moving back to Kansas City, and that’s a plus,” says Webster, adding that about 30 new families had enrolled as of Monday afternoon.

Webster says it helps that the Board of Education at 2901 Troost Ave. is so close to the health department. Before, families had to catch a bus from downtown if they didn’t have their children’s medical records. Now they can walk down the street, as one father did this morning when he showed up without his daughter’s birth certificate.

LaTeak Harbin, a public health nurse with the Kansas City Health Department’s immunization clinic, was on site to provide vaccinations if kids needed them.

“Usually the kindergartners are missing shots because they’re just now turning of age to get them,” Harbin says.

Not everyone who dropped by the enrollment fair Monday was new to the district. Danesha Franklin was trying to sort out transportation for her daughter, Alescia, who’s entering third grade at Border Star Montessori.

“It’s been a hassle,” Franklin says, though she's confident she’ll be able to resolve the issue.

Enrollment continues Tuesday at the Board of Education; Wednesday and Thursday at Northeast Middle School, 4904 Independence Ave.; and Friday and Saturday at African-Centered College Preparatory Academy, 6410 Swope Pkwy.

Elle Moxley covers Missouri schools and politics for KCUR. You can reach her on Twitter @ellemoxley.

Elle Moxley covered education for KCUR.
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