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Kansas City Public Schools won't make decisions about closures until at least February, superintendent says

Andrea Tudhope
KCUR 89.3 file photo
Kansas City Public Schools will host a series of community engagement events and will seek input from district staff when deciding which schools to close, says Superintendent Mark Bedell.

In a virtual session Monday, Superintendent Mark Bedell said the number of schools in the district “doesn’t add up” with enrollment numbers, but assured listeners decisions won’t be made without community input. 

Kansas City Public Schools are considering closing some schools due to declining enrollment.

The school district's multi-year master plan, called Blueprint 2030, will bring many changes. But Superintendent Mark Bedell said Monday in a virtual session that decisions will not be made on school closings before the district’s board of directors meets on Feb. 9, 2022, but the timeline depends on how much community input they get.

“Our board made it very clear to me that in order for them to get to a ‘yes’ vote in February, they have to feel very confident that there has been full blown community engagement,” said Bedell. “If they don’t feel that we’ve done that then there’s no way that we can vote in February.”

Bedell said right now, the number of schools compared to the number of students doesn’t add up, and that the district needs to consolidate schools to work more efficiently. In an upcoming workshop on Nov. 3, Bedell said, the district will consider school scorecards as one factor in deciding which schools need to be closed.

“We have to take a look at some of these facilities that have low ratings, and we have to make a determination,” said Bedell. “Is it worth making any further investments in those facilities if the ratings are so low and the expenses of those facilities hurt us in turns of the experiences we want to offer for kids?”

KCPS is made up of 35 schools and serves close to 14,000 students.

Bedell said that when the time comes to close schools, the district will do everything it can to retain staff instead of laying off employees. However, he said, they will closely examine departments that could use improvement.

“Ultimately our goal is to hopefully be able to absorb as many of our staff members,” said Bedell. “We believe that there will be a ton of staff members that will be able to benefit off of this, but I’ll be very clear we’re gonna take a strong look at central office. We can’t go trying to touch things in the schools if we have not addressed central office inefficiencies.”

KCPS will host a series of community engagement events this week, and will seek input from district staff over the next couple of weeks. A full list of upcoming events can be found here.

Bedell said if they’re done right, changes will advance KCPS.

“We understand that there will be discomfort, we understand there will be some pain points that we will have to go through,” said Bedell. “But most importantly, we believe that if we engage everybody properly, we believe that we can all come up with a scenario that we think would best fit where we want to see this school district end up by the time we get to 2030.”

Bek Shackelford-Nwanganga reports on health disparities in access and health outcomes in both rural and urban areas.
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