In Kansas City, a lesson in transforming closed schools


The Chicago Reporter recently ran a story about how the Kansas City Public Schools Repurposing Initiative can be a positive model for other public school system around the nation. Here’s an excerpt:

By many measures, Kansas City, Missouri, and Chicago are similar. Both are sprawling Midwestern cities with shrinking school districts marred by long histories of racial segregation, funding woes and leadership turnover. But when the districts closed dozens of schools in low-income African-American neighborhoods, they had starkly different approaches to reusing the empty buildings.

Chicago, which shuttered 50 schools four years ago, turned over the reuse process to aldermen, many of whom didn’t include the public in planning the buildings’ future. With dozens of vacant schools and widespread criticism for not involving residents in the process, Chicago recently ended aldermen’s control of school reuse and handed it back to the school district, which put the buildings up for bid this month.

Kansas City Public Schools, on the other hand, hired an urban planner to manage school reuse. The process has been praised for prioritizing community engagement, transparency and giving nonprofits with limited access to capital the chance to buy a school. Kansas City emphasized finding quality new uses for the schools over generating revenue for the district, which closed half its schools from 2009 to 2010. The Council of the Great City Schools, a nonprofit that advocates for big-city districts, will feature the district in a report of best practices for repurposing schools.

Read the entire story here: