By JOE JAROSZ
April 30, 2014
KANSAS CITY, Missouri – Before the start of her presentation, Dr. Cynthia Johnson, lead administrator for the Kansas City Public Schools middle schools, started singing two words.
Johnson was telling the group of about 25 school officials and community members to get ready because the KCPS Middle School Initiative is about to kick-off. On April 24, Johnson, along with others involved in bringing Northeast and Central Middle Schools back to Kansas City, presented a one year update on the schools as well as gave construction updates and detailed what needs to be completed by the time the schools open for business this coming August.
The elementary schools that will feed students into the middle school include Garcia, Garfield, Gladstone, James, Phillips, Pitcher, Rogers, Trailwoods and Whittier. For the 2014-15 school year, only children in seventh grade will attend the new middle schools. Then, for the 2015-16 school year, eighth grade students will be ushered in to join them.
John Hile, chair of the KCPS board of education, said the initiative is a testament to the hard work by Johnson and superintendent Dr. Stephen Green. For the children in the communities where these school are opening, Hile said the buildings represent a new beginning.
“The students will make the schools their own,” Hile said.
Currently both school sit at about 60 percent complete. Larry Englebrick, zone director for Northeast Middle School, said there are only 87 construction days left before everything needs to be completed. Northeast Middle School will feature 54 new classrooms, seven new collaboration spaces and feature additions including renovated media centers and cafeteria, new data systems and new computer labs.
“The collaboration areas are like the areas we all experienced in college,” Englebrick said.
Although there aren’t any new lockers, Englebrick said everything else in the building is new. And while there have been some challenges, or opportunities as he called them, he’s proud to work on an institution that the students would be proud of to call home.
“It’s not a new school, but everyone has worked hard together,” Englebrick said.
Manomay Malathip, the graduation specialist for the KCPS, said beginning at the middle schools, she’ll help students with gathering information for post-secondary school. In the few years she’s worked with students at KCPS high schools, she said many don’t know about financial aid. Teaching that concept to students at a younger age will help more who apply for college. There’s already a trip planned to the University of Missouri-Kansas City campuses.
“We’re going to prepare students for college before the get to high school,” Malathip said.
A program recently added to Northeast Middle School is the cadet teachers. Johnson said the middle school will work with neighboring Northeast High School to create a program where a high school student aspiring to be a teacher can work with middle school students. She closed the 90 minute presentation by saying school tours will begin around July 1. Then officials will “boogie” to get things done by August.
“The stage is set for success at the middle schools,” Johnson said.