Kansas City District still considering future of closed schools - KCTV5

Kansas City School District still considering future of shuttered buildings

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At its height, more students attended the Kansas City School District than any other area district,  and schools dotted the city south of the Missouri River.

But as enrollment plummeted and the hundreds of millions pumped in via desegregation money ended, the district closed school after school.

Some of the buildings have been turned into senior housing or community centers. But many shuttered buildings have become blighted eyesores in neighborhoods.

One of the vacant buildings is Westport High School. It had been run for some time as a charter school, but the district kicked out the charter a decade ago and took it back over in an effort to bring back students into the district. Instead, the effort failed and the school was closed.

A divided school board rejected an offer from Academie Lafayette to use the building as a high school. Apartments, a fitness center, retail space and recreational opportunities would have been part of the project.

The charter school actively competes for the city's most gifted students and is seen by some parents as a strong public alternative to the district.

One of the district's most significant closing efforts came in 2010 when 30 buildings were shuttered. Of those, 10 have been sold, re-used or demolished. Three were sold to charter schools, two turned into senior housing and one turned into a community center.

The buildings that have been sold have been purchased in price ranges from $400,000 to $1 million.

Residents in neighborhoods where the buildings have been repurposed are pleased.

Taryn Hughley lives near the former Seven Oaks school, which is now on its way to becoming a senior living facility.

"The kids would come and throw rocks and (commit acts of) vandalism," she said. "They were actually destroying the building."

District official Shannon Jaax said repurposing the closed buildings is a challenge.

"It's a huge undertaking and we knew from the beginning that there aren't enough resources in this community financially to redevelop all these sites," Jaax said.

Public meetings are being held. The right decisions must be made, Hughley said.

"You don't want somebody who might just buy it, and it stays empty for years," she said.

Jaax agreed.

"They can't just write us a check for $50,000 and take the school. We ask them to submit a proposal - who they are and what their background is?  What are their past experiences are in doing similar projects?" she said, adding that financial plans and how long the project would take to complete are scrutinized.

The district spent $1.9 million in 2012-2013 on maintaining the closed buildings. The costs are expected to be $1.3 million for the current school year.

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