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Metro district relying on private money to grow

Posted at 6:55 PM, Nov 03, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-03 19:55:48-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — School districts throughout the metro are becoming more dependent on the generosity of the private sector to advance their programs.

Grain Valley High School's new outdoor classroom or "Learnscape" welcomed students on Friday thanks to the generosity of Hollis Miller architects.

James Kersten is one of the architects who helped work on the outdoor learning space for students.

"That's one thing we're very passionate about, we have kids going to the schools around here. A pre-schooler learns very differently than a high schooler," said Kersten.

The generosity of the private sector is becoming more a factor when it comes to growth in many of the metro's existing school districts. Last week, Academie Lafayette announced the purchase of a new building that will soon be its high school. On Wednesday, the Kansas City Public School board voted to reopen Lincoln Middle School. The renovation of the school is slated to cost more than $16 million.

Both projects are soliciting financial support.

Mark Bedell is the superintendent of Kansas City Public Schools.

"School Smart, we went to them to apply for a grant for $1.5 million to help us with the startup," said Bedell.

Elimane Mbengue is the head of school at Academie Lafayette. He said purchasing the new building was a huge accomplishment for the charter school, but now they have to find the funding to get the new high school up and running.

"We're still continuing the campaign to raise more funds. We hope that philanthropic organizations will understand the return on investment by investing. We're offering a world-class education right here in Kansas City," said Mbengue.

Aaron North is the vice president of education for the Kauffman Foundation.  He says the organization believes all students should have access to a high-quality education.

"The Kauffman Foundation has several million dollars in both charter schools and district schools in Kansas City. Growth in the quality of schools is really around the idea that every single student should have the option to attend a great public school, that's district or charter school. No exceptions." said North.