KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Ten Kansas City Public Schools will be on the chopping block at next month’s board meeting. The district is blaming part of it on dwindling enrollment.

Whittier Elementary is one of those schools on the list. 

If the board approves what’s called “Blueprint 2030,” Whittier will close in the fall of 2024. Students would then transition to Phillips, Garfield, Rogers and Trailwoods elementary schools — if they choose to stay in the district at all.

KCPS said between the 2018 and 2022 school years, Whittier lost 114 students, but Allisia Canady, an attorney with the nonprofit Neighborhood Legal Support, thinks that number is misleading. 

“The demographic of this neighborhood is immigrant, refugee families, and often times they’re not properly counted in the census data,” Canady said.

Not only that, but she said more students are starting to come back from the COVID-19 pandemic.

When Whittier went to virtual learning, Canady said many of the non-English speaking families found it challenging to keep up with their children’s English learning. Some families opted to move schools where they could receive in-person instruction.

Cannady’s NLS group works with the Lykins Neighborhood Association, which encompasses Whittier. She tells FOX4 despite being in a neighborhood with one of the lowest average household incomes in the district, Whittier is one of the highest performing schools.

Not only that, but it’s also extremely diverse with 20 languages spoken within the school. 

“Their assumption is that there’s a declining residence in this community and that’s not accurate. As a matter of fact, it’s a growth area,” Canady said.

Her group is working to revitalize the area, which she calls “affordable” with a “walkable school.” If KCPS takes that away, she believes it will make the area less attractive to families. 

“What impact does it have on property value if you have an empty school that’s in need of major repair and has been neglected by KCPS?” Canady said. “They’re not going to fix it while it’s empty, and it’s going to be attracting crime, homeless people, prostitution, and drugs.”

She, like many, knows that Whittier is in desperate need of repairs, but instead of spending millions on constructing a new elementary school, Canady would prefer the money go elsewhere.

“Our request is that we leave these two schools [Whittier and James] open,” Canady said. “See what happens with the (April 2024 school) bond, and we’d like to see Garfield Elementary rehabbed, and the savings (from that) go into a repurposing plan for the other two buildings.” 

If not that, leave James and Whittier open until KCPS knows they’ll get the 2024 bond allocation. They could then revamp one of those two elementary schools to be the single elementary school in northeast Kansas City for KCPS and bring families together.

“It’d be more cost-effective,” Canady said.

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