For the past several months, a group of mostly 30-something parents have gathered at a coffee shop in Waldo with plenty of babies and toddlers in tow.
Like a lot of parents who live in Kansas City, Mo., the group members are concerned about performance of local public schools. Thinking about their child’s education, lots of KCMO parents face a huge question: “Should I move to Kansas? Or relocate to a Missouri suburb?” But for the members of this coffee shop crew, the answer is a resounding “no.”
Rather than split town, the Friends of Hale Cook are digging in. They’re working to get the district to open a new school in Waldo, and they’ve been canvasing the area for the past few weeks to spread the message and get support. They’re not pushing for a charter or Montesori school.
“We are qualifying ourselves as a neighborhood school,” says the group’s chairperson, Ashley Hand. “Being that there would be no bussing as a way of, not only saving on the cost per student to put that money into the actual administration of the building, but it also allows us a higher level of investment in the outcome of a public school when parents and community members can be directly involved with the school itself.”
About two years ago, Waldo neighborhood members decided they wanted the empty Hale Cook elementary school building at 73rd and Pennsylvania reopened. When they first approached the KCMO district, they said sure, as long as you can get full enrollment on the first day. The Friends of Hale Cook knew that finding nearly 350 new students was probably impossible. So they worked with the district and Superintendent Dr. Stephen Green to find alternate approach.
“We are in the process of completing a feasibility study where we’ve done a very broad survey of the community and the neighborhood adjacent to the school to determine if and how they would support a neighborhood school,” says Hand.
The current strategy is to start small - really small. They want to launch the preschool and kindergartens programs first and reopen the rest of school in stages over the course of several years. With the feasibility study, The Friends of Hale Cook are also trying to demonstrate the school will have new students to start in fall 2013 and in future years.
** Correction: Dr. Stephen Green was initially referred to as "Interim Superintendent." Dr. Green became permanent Superintendent of the Kansas City, Missouri school district in April of 2012.
The Friends of Hale Cook will finish their feasibility study in the next few weeks. Hand says that if they can show enough neighborhood support, Superintendent Green has agreed to make the case to the school board.