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Kansas City Public Schools considers closing 10 schools: 'The status quo is not an option'

Exterior photo of a brick building with glass entry and sign above the door that reads "Kansas City Board of Education.
Carlos Moreno/KCUR 89.3
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The Kansas City Public Schools' Board of Education announced at Wednesday night's board meeting a recommendation to close or convert 10 schools as part of its Blueprint 2030 plan.

Facing declining enrollment, the district is proposing closing two high schools and eight elementary schools. Officials say the closures are necessary in order to offer students elective courses and specialized learning.

Faced with declining enrollment and aging buildings, Kansas City Public Schools is considering closing 10 schools as part of its long-term plan to expand student opportunities.

The district’s Board of Education announced the list of schools recommended for closure or conversion at its Wednesday meeting during an update on Blueprint 2030, its multi-year strategic plan for “accelerating academic achievement and enhancing our student experience.”

But how the district carries out those closures is complicated.

A national consulting company recommended the district close the following two high schools and eight elementary schools:

  • Central High School would close in fall 2023 with students transitioning to Southeast High School. Central is recommended for future use as a professional learning center or "swing site" for building relocations during renovations or construction.
  • Northeast High School would close in fall 2026 with students transitioning to East and Southeast High Schools. The building is also recommended for future use as a swing site for building relocations during renovations or construction.
  • James Elementary School would close in fall 2023 with students transitioning to Gladstone Elementary.
  • Longfellow Elementary School would close in fall 2023 with students transitioning to Garcia and Hale Cook Elementary.
  • Troost Elementary would close in fall 2023 with students transitioning to Hartman and Banneker Elementary. 
  • Wheatley Elementary would close in fall 2024 with students transitioning to Phillips and Rogers Elementary School. 
  • Whittier Elementary would close in fall 2024 with students transitioning to Phillips, Garfield, Rogers and Trailwoods Elementary School. 
  • King Elementary would close in fall 2024 with students temporarily transitioning to Hartman, Faxon, Melcher until the opening of a newly constructed King Elementary School in 2026. The existing building is recommended to serve as the future home of Paseo Middle School. 
  • Faxon Elementary would close in fall 2026 and merge into the new construction of King Elementary.  Faxon Elementary school is recommended for future use as site for the possible relocation for Success Academy K-5  or a possible parent empowerment center.
  • Melcher Elementary would close in fall 2026 and merge into the new construction of King Elementary.

The recommended changes include the creation of three additional schools, one middle and two elementary.
South Middle School would open in fall 2024. Faxon and Melcher Elementary would merge into the new King Elementary in fall 2026. New construction of an elementary school in Kansas City's Northeast region was recommended to replace an existing elementary school.

School officials say the decision on which schools to close was made based on low enrollment numbers and high costs of deferred maintenance on buildings.

KCPS Board President Nate Hogan said consolidating and repurposing schools was necessary for the district. 

“Today, we have too many facilities, which demand ever-increasing investment to effectively deliver the full complement of educational and extracurricular opportunities that drive student achievement and enhance that student experience. The status quo is not an option,” Hogan said.

Compared to other local school districts, KCPS reports its spending significantly more on operational costs like transportation, food services and security. The district hopes closing schools will allow it to spend more money on things like foreign language classes, instrumental music, science labs, elective courses, project-based learning and field trips.

The proposed recommendations would redirect $13.2 million to make investments in these programs.

The district also plans on retaining all of its school staff. Dr. Jennifer Collier, the district’s interim superintendent, said the district could have a surplus of teachers which would help students with small group learning and keeping class sizes small.

Hogan noted that some parts of the plan are contingent on the district passing a bond initiative. The district hasn't had a successful school bond since 1967.

Other board members questioned what made this plan different from the other times the district closed schools amid declining enrollment.

But Collier said even with the recent accreditation, the district will not see the growth it wants unless it makes changes.

“Right now it's very difficult for us to do that, as our funds are currently spread across our system, where we have buildings that are not at capacity, where enrollments are low, where we struggle to have staff and the kind of programming that we want to have in buildings because we don't have enough students to be able to provide that,” Collier said.

Collier also reminded the audience that the recommendation is not a final decision on the district’s reconfiguration and that they need the community’s input to move forward.

The district will host nine community conversations to hear feedback on its plan before the board votes in December. A full set of dates and times can be found here.

More than ever, education lies at the intersection of equity, housing, funding, and other diverse issues facing Kansas City’s students, families and teachers. As KCUR’s education reporter, I’ll break down the policies driving these issues in schools and report what’s happening in our region's classrooms. You can reach me at jodifortino@kcur.org.
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