Two longtime charter schools to close in Kansas City

KANSAS CITY (AP) — Two of Kansas City’s charter high schools will close after this year because of low enrollment and financial pressures.

Tolbert Preparatory Academy and Don Bosco, which as charter schools receive public funding but are freed from many of the rules and regulations that bind traditional public schools, announced the closings this week. The schools have different university sponsors and a combined enrollment of about 285 students.

Don Bosco, which is sponsored by the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg, opened more than a decade ago to serve students at risk of dropping out. But the charter’s board said Friday that the school had run at a deficit for several years and the financial strain had become too great to continue.

The University of Central Missouri said in a written statement that the charter school’s board also cited academic performance concerns, including poor scores on state tests, and irregular and low enrollment patterns. Only about 125 of its 160 students were showing up on a typical day, and the state’s formula for distributing money to schools takes attendance into account.

The statement said the university was “saddened” to learn about the decision but pleased officials made the call early enough to give students time to find other schools to attend in the fall.

The leadership for Lee A. Tolbert Charter Academies had been taking money from its grade school, Lee A. Tolbert Community Academy, to subsidize the high school, Tolbert Prep, said Steve McClure, who oversees Tolbert and other charter schools sponsored by the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

In a letter sent to parents Tuesday, Tolbert officials cited low enrollment and financial problems as the reasons for the closing.

“I think the board felt like they had debate and a basketball team and all of these things that cost some money and if we have further state cuts they wouldn’t be able to offer the program they wanted to offer,” McClure said.

He said he thought that part of the problem was that Tolbert’s two campuses were 24 blocks apart and students who started in the elementary weren’t making the jump to the high school because they wanted to stay in a more familiar neighborhood. The high school had only about 125 students.

“They were doing OK,” McClure said of the school’s academic performance. “They certainly from our standpoint were improving.”

Many of the students likely will return to public schools, and the Kansas City Missouri School District said it was ready for them.

“As always, it is the goal and desire of the Kansas City, Missouri School District that every child have access to a quality education,” the district said in a written statement. “Choice allows parents to make decisions about the best educational opportunities for their children. We stand ready to offer the best education possible to students and families that reside within our district borders.”

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