Why is KCPS keeping vacant schools?

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Kansas City Public Schools and its school board are under fire after a controversial vote last week.

Dozens of school buildings sit empty in the district so, after a controversial school board vote behind closed doors last week, some wonder why the board continues to keep them empty.

Westport High School at 315 East 39th St. has sat empty since 2010. No students come and go, in and out of the iconic building as parents have increasingly pulled their children away from the unaccredited district.       

Last Wednesday, the KCPS school board had an option to sell it and didn't. Now parents who are willing to stay and live in the urban core want to know why.

Foutch Bros. Real Estate wanted to purchase the school, a proposal it has worked on for years.

Foutch Bros. wanted to dedicate part of the space to Academie Lafayette's International Baccalaureate High School.

The other empty space would go to apartments, office space and a fitness club.
Board President Airick Leonard West would not comment on the board's vote but indicated the deal wasn't necessarily finished.

Still, the Academie Lafayette community that has been working on expanding its K-8 French immersion program is upset and confused.

Academie Lafayette isn't a part of the KCPS school district. The program is free to the parents who get in through a lottery system. It is one if the highest performing school programs in the state if Missouri.

Parents say good schools are the only way they will stay and live in Kansas City.

"We want our schools to be close by and love the neighborhood," parent Phil French said.

Since 2011, 36 schools have sat empty in the KCPS district at a cost of $1.88 million in maintenance a year. Half of those have either been sold, are in negotiations or will be reopened-- costing the district $1.3 million to maintain.

The district admits those are expensive bills for a district that's hemorrhaging thousands of students every few years.

"Real estate deals aren't easy. We're trying to move them toward productive reuse as we can but sometimes that takes longer than we'd all like," Shannon Jaax, KCPS repurposing coordinator said.

“We need to keep in context is the real estate market is very challenging," she said.

The district recommended the Academie Lafayette sale but it's still yet to be known exactly why the board voted differently last Wednesday.

Academie Lafayette still plans to move ahead with their plan with or without the district.

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