Crunch time for parents trying to find new school after Benjamin Banneker closes

Posted at 5:48 PM, Jul 31, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-31 18:48:46-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The start of school is just a couple weeks away, and that deadline means it’s crunch time for some families with kids would have returned to Benjamin Banneker Charter Academy of Technology.

The charter school told parents earlier this month that the school would shut down.

“Tons of parents would have loved for it to stay, but I mean what we’re fighting against, we couldn’t avoid it,” said Rashin Steward. “This isn’t our fault.” 

Steward’s kids, ages 7 and 10, have gone to Banneker since pre-K. They now have to enroll in another school, after Banneker was shut down. It will not reopen for fall. 

“It’s been a struggle, being that it’s a lot of things that I loved about BBCAT - the community, the family, and knowing that your children are safe there and they’re getting correct education and attention,” Steward said.

The University of Central Missouri pulled its sponsorship of the school last fall, citing declining academic performance over the last 5 years. 

In 2017, 22 percent of Banneker’s students were at or above grade level in English Language Arts. 

The school’s percentage of students at or above grade level in Mathematics was 12 percent.

Steward says her children were thriving there.

Banneker’s contract with UCM ended June 3.

Many parents held out hope.

“I am actually committed to Benjamin Banneker,” said one parent last fall. 

Banneker worked with schools within the Kansas City public school district to coordinate student enrollment fairs for families to look at other options when it became clear the school’s future was in jeopardy.

Students and parents protested at UCM in November. Banneker’s superintendent Marion Brown said she was confident they’d find a new sponsor

But the school never found a new sponsor. It’s unclear why.

On July 24, the Missouri Charter Public School Association sent out an official notice the school would not open and that it was helping families.

Many parents are now scrambling to find schools with openings.

Benjamin Banneker falls within the Kansas City Public School District’s boundaries.

“All throughout the year, probably since about January, we’ve been getting calls,” said Garrett Webster, director of enrollment at KCPS. 

Webster says the district will gladly take in those students. 

“I would say just about all of our schools, except for maybe three, can take Benjamin Banneker students at this time,” Webster said.

KCPS will work to make sure the Banneker kids can still stay together, and have made room at its African Center College Preparatory Academy. 

Show Me KC Schools is also reaching out to parents to help. 

Steward says she’ll look to the Grandview school district, but doesn’t even know if her kids’ new school has their records.

Other parents have the same complaint. It is up to Banneker to provide students’ records to a new school.

Vickie Hughes, UCM’s director of charter schools, says things would have been more organized, but a lawsuit Banneker’s board filed in March prevented UCM from going forward with closing procedures. The court ruled the school would close June 27, two days before the contract expired. 

Hughes said they had no time to get files digitized and transfer materials that were paid for by public funds to other schools, like desks and books.

UCM is choosing to renew sponsorship of two other Kansas City charter schools, Gordon Parks Elementary and Scuola Vita Nuova. 

Parents with questions can call these resources: 

  • Charter School Enrollment Hotline: 1-844-458-7573
  • KCPS Admissions Hotline: 816-418-7505 
  • Show Me KC Schools: (816) 535-0656