Hickman Mills school board votes to close two elementary schools

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Some teachers in Hickman Mills will lose their jobs and several hundred children will be going to different schools next year. The district’s board of directors voted Thursday night to close two schools next school year in order to save money: Symington Elementary and Johnson Elementary.

The decisions followed months of parent forums, the hiring of a consultant firm, and four recommendations presented. Three recommendations came from the consulting firm MGT, which recommended closing three to five schools. Those recommendations would have the district between $7 million and $10 million.

A fourth alternative recommendation by Superintendent Dr. Yolanda Cargile recommended closing two schools, Symington and Truman.

The closures were deemed necessary because of dwindling enrollment and the board's desire to reach a 15-percent fund balance.

Kansas City Councilman Kevin McManus was among those who sent letters and spoke at the meeting urging the board to use caution and seek alternatives.

“The school district needs you now," he told them at Thursday's meeting.

South Kansas City Alliance President John Sharp told the board closing schools sends the wrong message and could hurt growth and positive momentum.

After the board settled on closing two schools, Director Clifford Ragan proposed a last-minute change to which schools would close after hearing about Johnson Elementary’s potential flooding problems because of its surrounding terrain.

“Instead of Truman and Symington, it will be Symington and Johnson," Board President Wakisha Briggs announced.

The 6-1 vote left Truman parents whose school was saved nearly speechless.

“I feel bad that other schools had to close. It’s very emotional for all of us. Our daughter loves her school," Michael Murphy said.

The vote also brought a Johnson Elementary parent and her child’s 5th grade teacher to tears.

“I love them this is my family, I don’t like what they just did," Victoria Potts said as she hugged her child's teacher, Kathie Remley.

"We’ll do what we do every day and go in and love on our kids, and teach them to the best that we can, and give them our all," Remley said.

Director Alvin Brooks said he fears the board  closed too few schools Thursday and will be back in the same situation in a few years.

Teachers will find out if they will keep their jobs by the end of the month. According to a district spokesperson, staff decisions will be based on seniority.

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