Oftentimes, a neighborhood is formed around a school. A school can be much more than a place where our children go Monday through Friday, but rather it becomes a community space for all. However, when this community space does not exist in a neighborhood, families either have to deal with the inconveniences, or take matters into their own hands to create a school in their neighborhood.
In recent history Kansas City Public Schools have been closing, due to poor performance, shrinking enrollment or some combination of the two. But community members Andrew Johnson and Kristen Littrell discuss what they see as a clear need for a public elementary school to open in Midtown Kansas City. They, and other residents formed the Midtown Community School Initiative to bring ideas for a new school together and unite the community.
Many parents, such as Johnson, have to drive six miles to get to their child's school. And those parents who don't own vehicles must send their children to school via long bus routes. Being so geographically displaced from their children's school causes a disconnect between families and the school, says Johnson, because it is harder to get involved and feel included. The Midtown neighborhood needs a school for the many families that live there, and parents such as Johnson and Littrell are willing to work for it.
Midtown area families do have some inspiration from a local community who was successful in opening up a new school in the Waldo/Brookside area. Ashley Hand adds a story of success to the discussion as the Hale Cook Elementary school is scheduled to officially welcome students next year. Much like the Midtown community, the neighbors of the Waldo community saw a need for a school in their area, and when a building was found to accommodate their needs, they moved forward to open a new elementary school. Next year Hale Cooke Elementary will welcome its first group of kindergartners and first graders.
Midtown residents are only in the beginning of a process that took Hale Cook about three years. However, as Littrell says, community members are focused on taking ownership of their community and taking pride in their neighborhood.
- Ashley Hand, Chair of Friends of Hale Cook Board of Directors
- Andrew Johnson, member of Midtown Community School Initiative
- Kristen Littrell, member of Midtown Community School Initiative