What is “Uniting At Southwest”?

sw yard sign

You’ve probably seen these yard signs popping up about Uniting at Southwest. What’s the story? A parent-led proposal is underway to reopen the unused Southwest High School as a project-based, public high school with a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) program by 2019.

 

At one time, Southwest was one of the most well regarded and respected high schools in the Kansas City public school system. The school closed in 2016, and KCPS has no plans to sell or lease it. Uniting at Southwest has the support of hundreds of local residents, former students and prospective SW school families who want to see the school reopened with this highly desirable type of curriculum. Parents have signed up over 1000 potential students via the Support Survey at the website.

 

sw schoolThe organizers behind Uniting at Southwest have funding behind them as well: several of Kansas City’s largest foundations, including Bloch and Stowers, have pledged support for the planning and renovations needed to reopen. They envision a neighborhood high school that would offer another school choice to nearby Brookside and Waldo residents, and be open to students living within the KCPS footprint. Other schools with the STEAM program have been very successful, and organizers cite High Tech High in San Diego and P-Tech in Brooklyn as models.

Local parent and enthusiastic supporter John Couture, owner of the Bier Station, says: “We have an opportunity to all come together–charter, parochial and district folks, to create something truly spectacular for our kids. It would be KC’s first project based high school.  In addition to a rigorous education, these programs provide students with the skills they’ll need to thrive in the modern economy–things like innovation, collaboration and grit”.

The next steps for Uniting at Southwest include building even more city-wide community support, and then (hopefully) working with KC Public Schools to make the vision a reality. For more information on Uniting at Southwest, please visit their website. There is also a quick survey on the site that you can complete—they welcome your support and input whether you have children or not. You are also welcome to stop by Bier Station tomorrow night (4/19/2017) between 5-9pm, 120 E Gregory,  to meet local supporters and learn more details.

As a local real estate agent and Brookside resident, I could write another blog entirely devoted to the importance of local  schools on home values and for relocating families. Providing nearby, neighborhood K-12 public schools that are diverse and high quality will be a huge benefit for our area. Reopening Southwest as a STEAM school, operated as an autonomous program under the KCPS umbrella, would be extremely beneficial for Brookside and Waldo and Kansas City in general. Please visit the Uniting at Southwest website and share your comments!

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IB High School Proposed for Brookside

southwest1Big news was recently announced for homeowners in Brookside:  Academie Lafayette and KC Public Schools want to form  a partnership to create an International Baccalaureate high school at Southwest High School, 6512 Wornall Road.   If all plans are approved, the first students would enroll in Fall 2015.

Why is this important news for all residents–not just those with school aged children?  Because a successful, well-maintained and respected public school in the heart of Brookside could raise property values and keep families in the neighborhood long term.  I’m very optimistic about this possible new partnership–but of course there are many details to sort out over the next few months.  I attended a  meeting  last week  for parents of current Southwest  students (although I do not have any children at the school) to find out more.  Here are a few things I learned, outlined in bullet points:

*Academie Lafayette would operate the school, hire staff and manage curriculum.  KCPS would retain ownership and maintenance of the building. It would not be a French immersion school, but would have several  foreign language options.

*Prospective students that do not graduate from Academie Lafayette would need to pass a test before enrolling at the school.

*The inaugural 9th grade class (2015-2016) is expected to have 100-150 students, split equally with AL and other grade school grads.  (Southwest has a capacity for over 1600 students; current enrollment is about 500 teens).  One additional class would be added each year through 12th grade.

*Students who  leave Southwest will meet with KCPS representatives, one on one, along  with their parent/guardian, to discuss placement in other schools.

*The proposed partnership has been approved by the MO Dept of Elementary and Secondary Education and the AL charter school sponsor, the University of Central MO. Students would be considered KCPS students.   A final decision is expected before the end of the year.

To learn more…attend a meeting!  If you are the parent/guardian of a current SW student,  the next Family Meeting is Thursday July 17, 6:30pm  at Paseo Academy. Two Public Meetings are scheduled for 6pm Tuesday July 8 and Tuesday July 22 at Paseo Academy.  Online resources:  www.kcpublicschools.org/alhs and the Mind Mixer forum  www.kcpsforum.org