KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City Public Schools Board of Education will vote in December on whether to implement ‘Blueprint 2030.’
The proposal has been a three-year planning process which the district has called “necessary to ensure all students have access to Pre-K thru 12th grade classes that prepare them for college, a career, and life.”
Part of the proposal calls for closing 10 KCPS schools by the year 2026. That includes Troost Elementary, Longfellow Elementary, James Elementary, Central High, Whittier Elementary, Wheatley Elementary, King Elementary, Northeast High, Faxon Elementary, and Melcher Elementary.
The idea to close schools stems from a decline in enrollment. KCPS has 14,000 students but enrollment has been steadily falling over the years, and the district expects to lose anther 1,400 students by 2026. As of 2021, more Kansas City kids are enrolled in charter schools than public schools.
“I think it’s important for it to stay open. It’s a good school for the community,” said Luis Estrada, whose son attends Whittier Elementary.
He joined a convoy of parents who traveled from the elementary school to the Board of Education building on Troost for Wednesday night’s meeting.
Parents like Estrada, as well as students, teachers, and community members filled every seat in the room to protest ‘Blueprint 2030.’ Whittier Elementary, along with Northeast High, are in areas considered to be “low-income.”
Closing those schools does not sit well with people like Larry Cooper, who graduated from Northeast High School.
“The culture of the northeast neighborhood is primarily Hispanic, but we also have a lot of Muslim and African American. Quite simply if you close our schools, you will show that community that you would rather invest elsewhere than take care of the students in our community,” he said during the public comment portion of the meeting.
Whittier Elementary is home to many families from outside the United States. Twenty languages are spoken at the school while 62% of the students speak a language other than English at home.
“Whether they grew up in KCMO or arrived here seeking a better life, Whittier needs to remain a consistent for them. What is best for these families? What is best if their child falls ill, and they need to pick them up, but they don’t have the transportation to arrive at the four different schools we’ve been divided up into?,” added Whittier Elementary teacher Rebecca Wampler. “If Whittier were to close there would be a geographically large hole in which our families would be without their central home base or school.”
Another issue is Central High, which boasts an Olympic-sized swimming pool. The high school is also the newest in the district, which is why former KCPS teacher and coach Charles Harris doesn’t understand why the district wants to close it.
“You take a high school that is less than 25 years old, with the highest R value, which would have the lowest heat bill and the lowest transportation because it’s centrally located,” he said. “That does not make sense.”
Some at Wednesday’s meeting suggested the school board wait until the district finds a permanent superintendent until the proposal is voted on. Former Superintendent Dr. Mark Bedell resigned in June. Doctor Jennifer Collier has been serving in the interim.
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