Interest in Hale Cook school bodes well for KC district
The Kansas City Star
When enthusiastic parents knock on a closed Kansas City school’s doors wanting the building reopened, district officials should roll out the red carpet to welcome them in.
The surrounding southwest Kansas City community’s interest, led by a nonprofit group Friends of Hale Cook, is prompting Kansas City Public Schools to reopen Hale Cook Elementary in the fall if the school gets 75 children for kindergarten and first grade. Classes would start at nearby Hartman Elementary and move to Hale Cook at 7302 Pennsylvania Ave. in the fall of 2014, where a minimum of 110 children for kindergarten through second grade are needed.
District officials said they were “excited and encouraged” about the revived interest in Kansas City schools. The community’s “desire to reopen Hale Cook and rejoin the Kansas City Public Schools team speaks volumes about confidence in our efforts to increase student achievement.”
It also speaks volumes about neighborhoods pulling together to accomplish something that has the potential to turn around impressions of the district citywide.
For decades, families have been leaving the district, opting for private and parochial schools or moving into surrounding districts with better reputations. The southwest corridor community interest is the strongest sign yet of a potential district rebound. If successful, the schools could entice more families back into the public system.
High parent interest and involvement bodes well for an academically successful school. The district responsibility will be to make sure the reopened elementary has top quality teachers and administrators able to meet the parents’ expectations.
Hale Cook would become the district’s 26th elementary school, potentially helping to diversify the majority black and Hispanic student population of 17,000. . Redrawn boundaries would include students in nearby mostly minority neighborhoods. Hale Cook, built in 1928, closed in 2009 when the district shuttered nearly half the schools following years of shrinking enrollment.
Kansas City’s future could be significantly strengthened if the district can regain accreditation and begin to develop a stronger reputation. The determined parents who are lobbying their neighbors to rejoin the district deserve citywide thanks.
Under-performing schools are major detriment to urban renewal, and have been so for years. If Hale Cook succeeds and the district can keep the students through high school, it could help raise expectations and performance.
With community support, the district can be better.