Consultants recommend closing four Hickman Mills elementary schools

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- As many as four elementary schools could close at the end of the school year in the Hickman Mills School District.

On Tuesday night, parents learned what schools are potentially on the chopping block.

“Here are the four schools that we are looking at: Dobbs, Truman, Symington and Johnson," Portia Bates with MGT Consulting Group told a packed meeting room of parents and teachers.

The four schools are mostly centered in the Bannister Acres and Ruskin Hills neighborhoods,

Consultants said the district has room for more than 5,000 elementary students in its schools but right now has less than 3,000 students. The proposed closures come at at time when Hickman Mills is trying to shave $5.5 million from its budget to restore a 15 percent fund balance.

“People choose not to send their children to school for whatever reason in this district,"  said Luther Chandler, vice president of Hickman Mills' Board of Directors.

In a decade, consultants predict enrollment will dwindle to nearly 2,000 students. They're projections some residents reject with expansion projects like Cerner underway right around the corner.

“I do have faith we are going to come back. I do have faith in our students," John Sharp said.

Parents and teachers raised a number of questions about busing and layoffs in the face of the potential closures.

District leaders said busing woes will be mitigated by a plan to eliminate schools of choice for special programs and return those schools to neighborhood schools.

The decision on school closures are being expedited to next week’s board meeting so affected teachers will have time to find new jobs. But that means consultants will be working right up to that meeting and may present a whole different list of under-performing and under-utilized schools by then.

“It’s our job as a community to bring it back up, but we all need to bring it back up together," said Wesley Cunningham, a 1996 graduate of Hickman Mills Schools.

The Board of Directors will vote on closures at its Feb. 21 meeting.

“We must find a way to stabilize our budget, that is what our focus is. We understand it is going to be very difficult," said Wakisha Briggs, board president.

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