KCPS says school closure decision comes down to money not academics

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Interim Kansas City Public Schools Superintendent Al Tunis told dozens of disappointed parents a last-minute switch in which school they are recommending for closure is based on money, not academics.

The district says it needs to find $8 million to fund its master plan. That involves switching schools for 15 percent of students and three schools closings.

After 116 meetings over a two-year span, in January staff decided to change the elementary school that is closing from Crispus Attucks Elementary to Wendell Phillips Elementary.

It’s a school off The Paseo on East 24th Terrace, not too far from Attucks, with low enrollment at both schools.

Parents say they were shocked because Wendell Phillips is fully accredited, has a 96 percent attendance rate, and has a strong culture and community partnerships.

"It goes beyond just the school they’ve created a family atmosphere. So it doesn’t make sense to me to break up a school or move a school that’s fully accredited when there’s so many schools in the school district that they can be working on,” parent Lisa Barner said.

School Board members had some tough questions for staff Wednesday night, including how they could change so late, and how they already have a plan to turn Wendell Phillips into a district sponsored charter school with the charter school paying for building improvements.

When asked why close the better performing school over the lesser performing school, Tunis said the answer is that it's $3 million cheaper to renovate. A final decision on the master plan is set for February 24th.

It also calls for closing Satchel Paige and Southwest Early College Academy. The plan would add busing for students living between .5 and 1.5 miles of a school.