Gordon Park Elementary heads back to class after a summer of turmoil

Students at Gordon Parks Elementary started their first day of school Wednesday. The school was on the chopping block until late last month when a judge ruled the school could stay open for kindergarten through second grade.  

The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education voted to pull the school's charter back in May. DESE concluded that Gordon Park's test scores were consistently lower than other schools in Kansas City. Officials also cited high staff turnover rate.

School Board President Doug Curry said test scores don't take into account everything the school does for its students, who typically have to overcome much more difficult circumstances than other public schools.

"When our children come here at the start of the day, we almost have a triage set up with the buses because you never know what a child has experienced. We deal with their psychology and emotional states. We have counselors that work with that. We supply clothing and uniforms and we help clean children's clothes. We also supply them with a lot of food, not only food at the school throughout the day, but they take home backpacks of food every week," Curry said. "And I would say more than half of our children, not only take home food for themselves but for their families."

School was supposed to start Wednesday at 8:15 a.m., but the last bus, filled with students, arrived just after 9 a.m. Curry say transportation is one of the many challenges they face with families in transition.

"Transportation is a difficult issue. Our children live in cars. Some of them are homeless and others live in temporary housing," he said. "And we have several families who -- last night -- they had to leave their transitional housing, so they didn't know where they would be sleeping last night or where we'd be able to pick them up. So you can see the stress for a child who is going to sleep looking forward to the first day of school, but not know where they were going to wake up," he said.  

Curry said they intend to rebuild the school to its full capacity of kindergarten through fifth grade.

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