Nearly half of Kansas City’s public schools set to close
KANSAS CITY, Missouri – Nearly half the public schools in Kansas City, Missouri are slated for closure as the cash-strapped district struggles to address years of declining enrollment and poor performance.
The predominantly African American school district has seen numbers cut in half over the past 10 years as parents moved their children out of the poverty-stricken inner city or into charter schools that operate independently.
It has been plagued by chronic low academic performance with less than a third of elementary school students reading at or above grade level.
The school board voted 5-4 to approve a plan to close 26 of the district’s 59 schools at an emotional meeting Wednesday.
Superintendent John Covington defended the plan Thursday as the only way to bridge a projected 50-million-dollar budget for the upcoming academic year and focus resources on improving academic performance.
“Right now we are failing students in large percentages, in large numbers and that doesn’t have to be,” Covington told reporters.
“The savings we will generate will go into programs that will help them catch up. It will include an extended school day and an extended school year.”
Covington insisted that the restructuring plan will allow the district to “rise from the ashes” to become a school system that residents can be proud of.
Some 700 employees are expected to lose their jobs, including about 268 teachers, the district said.
The closures come as districts across the nation struggle to cope with massive funding cuts after a deep recession.