KANSAS CITY, Missouri - Members of a district champion football team will not be allowed to play for their new high school in Kansas City this fall.
The Westport High School Tigers won Interscholastic League and district football championships last season. (Listen to former all-Interscholastic league athlete and senior Derron Whitley's thoughts on the importance of the football program in the video clip.)The coach and players wanted to defend their crowns. However, district officials closed Westport as part of the superintendent’s ‘right-sizing’ plan.
The district was in danger of bankruptcy and needed to close 26 buildings to survive, officials said.
This fall, most former Westport students will attend Southwest Early College Campus in Brookside. SWECC did not have a football team last year and even though school enrollment will top 1,200, they will not field a team this year either.
“(Football’s) the only thing that kept me going besides graduation next year,” said Shon Barnes, a senior planning to attend SWECC.
Barnes and several other teammates are disappointed. All summer they wondered if their dreams to pursue football scholarships ended.
However, late last week, district officials told SWECC students they could play football by trying out for any team in the Interscholastic League.
Still, many argue SWECC should field its own team. The school has a practice field, an old locker room, and Coach Stanley said equipment from Westport is available. (Tell us what you think. Leave a comment below and email me any questions you have for the district.)
NBC Action News is working on getting answers from district officials. Some parents called the decision unacceptable. In response, at least one mother took her son out the Kansas City Public School district.
“It's so unfair because the Southwest that I knew when I was in high school 30 years ago always had a football team,” said Lorri Anderson whose son Derron Whitley is a senior and former all-Interscholastic League athlete. “As a matter of fact, (Derron’s) older brother went to Southwest the year (Derron) was born. He played football there. So, it's so unfair for the student-athletes because (football) gives them something to focus on, something to keep their grades up and for a lot of them, that's the only way they have an opportunity to go to college."
Look for more on this story on NBC Action News and NBCActionNews.com. We are working on a series of stories regarding the Southwest-Westport merger and the implementation of Dr. Covington’s ‘right-sizing’ plan.
We also plan to engage district leadership during a live television special later this month.
So, if you have a question to ask the superintendent, please e-mail me .