Parents come to teachers' aid as school closes

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - A group of parents have launched a fundraising effort to help teachers left jobless by the closure of the Christ the King school in Kansas City, Mo., this week.

Father Gregory Lockwood, the parish priest in charge of the school, announced plans to close the 68-year old institution at the end of the current school year back on April 12, in a letter that caught parents and teachers alike by surprise.

"Last year our deficit was very large, and we cannot sustain these losses again," Lockwood wrote in the letter. "There comes a time when enrollment and finances come together to force your hand to do something that you hoped to never do. That time is now."

This year, enrollment in the school was just 91 students. Enrollment reached 925 students in the late 50s, and the school's struggles to meet its numbers have mirrored those of other Catholic institutions around the country.

As parents shuffled their students into different districts for next year, a group led by school board president Jennifer Malone, and parent Christopher Haake decided to create Crusader Fund, a website built in conjunction with the Knights of Columbus, to collect donations for teachers who will be left jobless when the school closes its doors on Friday.

"Everybody else is going to find a place to go but these teachers really haven't had time to cultivate any new employment, because they've been in school with our kids," Haake said.

Teachers will be paid through the end of July, and then will be granted severance based on the length of their tenure at the school, capping at 12-weeks additional pay. Because the diocese does not pay into unemployment insurance, teachers will not be eligible to file for unemployment, the school's principal explained.

So far, only three teachers on her staff have secured jobs for next fall, principal Barb Deane said on Wednesday.

Teachers learned of the Crusader Fund on Wednesday, after the website www.crusaderfund.com soft-launched over the weekend.

Second grade teacher Cathy Field, who worked at the school for 27 years, broke down in tears when asked about the fundraising effort on her behalf.

"I think its just a wonderful gesture on their part," Field said. "It shows how much they value the teachers here, and gosh i can't thank them enough for entrusting their kids to us all these years."

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Editor's note: Reporter Garrett Haake has no relations to parent Christopher Haake.

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