UPDATED Jan. 11, 2023
After 57 meetings, 12 with the community and others with students and staff, Kansas City Public School Interim Superintendent Jennifer Collier recommended closing just two schools, down from the 10 schools proposed in October
At a school board workshop held Wed., Jan 11, Collier recommended closing Longfellow Elementary, 2830 Holmes and Troost Elementary, 1215 E 59th St. Longfellow, which has a carbon monoxide leak earlier this school term, is being recommended for closing predominately due to its physical condition. The estimated cost of needed deferred maintenance at the school is $6.5 million.
Troost Elementary, with a capacity of 400 students has just 252 students and has a downward trend in enrollment, with a decrease of 120 students in the past five years. In addition, the school is one of the district’s lowest performing schools.
KCPS Board of Directors is set to take a final vote on the school closing recommendations during their meeting on Jan. 25.
Collier said her recommendation is in response to recurring themes she heard during those meetings and included concerns about the impact of closed schools on the community and worries related to transitioning students to another school away from their neighborhood.
After presenting their proposed Blueprint 2030 in October, district administrators spent the past two months gathering input on the plan that proposed expanding fine arts, creating new project-based learning opportunities and building new schools.
“I don’t think that we were wrong with our original recommendations, I do think that closures need to happen based on our original data. But as I’ve stated before, I think we can do the right thing, I think we can do it in the wrong way, and in the wrong time, and if we do that we won’t get the results that we need.”Dr. Jennifer Collier , interim superintendent of Kansas City Public Schools.
While Collier said individuals the district engaged with were excited about the expanded programming, they were equally turned off by the plan’s proposal to close 10 schools, especially if the school was in their community.
“I think we have to demonstrate to them that we’ve heard them,” Collier told the Board. “I don’t think we should go out and say we’re going to listen, and we’re going to hear you, and then we come back and proceed as if we have not.”
Collier’s toned-down recommendations cut back on the number of school closings, but without the savings the school closings would net from the closures, her proposal also called for delaying most of the school improvement components in Blueprint 2030 including:
Instrumental music in elementary schools,
Project-based learning in all schools,
Beyond the four walls programming in all schools,
Science labs in elementary schools,
STEAM programming in elementary schools,
Foreign language classrooms in elementary schools,
Competency-based learning in high schools, and
College and career pathway in secondary schools.
“We still believe these are extremely important to the success of our children,” said Dr. Derald Davis, interim deputy superintendent. “These are not off the table, they are just delayed until we can find additional funding. They’re being moved from what we can do immediately without the identified funding sources.”
By closing the proposed 10 schools, the district expected to net $13.2 Million from operations that could be directed towards those expanded academic concepts.
What’s Still In
Despite the cutback, Collier said the district would continue with the implementation of some of the positive academic changes, most of which were already being implemented thanks to federal American Rescue Plan Act.
That programming includes:
Literacy strategies around reading and writing
Math focus strategies
Culturally responsive teaching
Instrumental music in secondary schools,
Reading and math endorsements
Maintaining reading and math interventionists
K-2nd Grade teachers reading endorsements
Board to Vote on Closures
After the presentation by the district’s administrators, members of the Board went into a closed executive session to discuss school closures.
“I don’t think that we were wrong with our original recommendations,” Collier told board members before they headed into the closed session. “I do think that closures need to happen based on our original data. But as I’ve stated before, I think we can do the right thing, I think we can do it in the wrong way, and in the wrong time, and if we do that we won’t get the results that we need.”
The board was originally planned to take action on the closings at their Dec. 14 meeting but announced a delay until January 11, 2023 board meeting.
There was considerable concern expressed about making the announcement just days ahead of closing the schools for winter break on Dec. 16. With just two days before break, administrators said the schedule wouldn’t allow them time to meet with the families ahead of the break and time to get adequate information out to family and students about next steps.