Kansas City Public Schools wants to close Southwest Early College Campus and transform the site into a new high school in partnership with French-immersion charter Academie Lafayette.
The district has been holding parent and community meetings this month to get feedback on the plan, which would require most current Southwest students transfer to other district schools. The next meeting is at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Paseo Academy, 4747 Flora Ave., Kansas City, Mo.
Here's what you need to know.
Who can enroll at the proposed high school?
An equal number of spots will be set aside for Academie Lafayette students and district students, who will have to apply to get in. Ninth graders from other charter schools and private school students will also be eligible to attend. Though they'll be considered district students, their enrollment is on top of the district's allocated spots. So you could have 50 kids from Academic Lafayette, 50 kids from the district and 25 kids from other schools enrolled in one class. (Those numbers are theoretical – the district hasn't determined how big each class will be.)
Can current Southwest students stay at Southwest?
The middle schoolers can apply to go to the new charter high school. But older students will have to pick another district school to attend. That's because when the new school opens, it will only house 9th graders. A new class will be added each year. The district has put together a chart outlining options for each class of Southwest students.
So is this new school a charter school or a district school?
It's both. The high school would be run like a charter school with Academie Lafayette staff at the helm. But it will also be a "signature" school, the designation that the district gives to buildings with selective enrollment criteria.
Then who pays?
Keep in mind that charter schools are public schools, too – they get money from the state and their share of local property tax revenues. So Academie Lafayette will get money for its students, as will the district. The district then will turn those dollars over to the charter school.
As for the building, it will still belong to the district. But Academie Lafayette is planning significant renovations, which it will finance.
Will kids have to speak French to get into the new high school?
No. The new school will be an International Baccalaureate school, not a language-immersion school. Kids will be able to take French, Spanish or Mandarin (and possibly Arabic, though those talks are still in the works).
Are there other International Baccalaureate schools in the metro?
North Kansas City, Lee's Summit and Shawnee Mission all have International Baccalaureate programs. Lincoln offers some of those classes, though students aren't required to take them. Kids enrolled at the new school will have to take at least one International Baccalaureate class.
The two-year program is mostly for juniors and seniors. Freshmen and sophomores take pre-program classes to help prepare them for the rigorous coursework.
When would the new school open?
The earliest would be fall 2015. The district plans to give current Southwest students in their senior year the option to transfer to one high school as a cohort, since the new school will only be freshmen.
Is this a done deal?
No. The plan still has to go to the district's board of directors for a vote. The district plans to incorporate the feedback it's getting at parent and community meetings into that proposal. The Academie Lafayette board must also agree to the plan.