By Daisy Garcia Montoya
Students, parents and community members gathered in the courtyard of James Elementary on Friday, September 29, to attend the school’s neighborhood block party. Despite the heat, families arrived ready to take advantage of the music, games and snacks available to all participants as well as mingle with other families.
For the first time since the pandemic, James Elementary had the opportunity to create an event of this magnitude and after the scare that James families went through last school year with the threat of closure, the school decided to organize the event and celebrate what had been accomplished.
Given the Kansas City, Missouri, Public School District’s Blueprint 2030 Plan, James was on the short list for a school closure due to low enrollment. Upon hearing of the potential closure of the community school, parents, teachers and community organizations such as Revolucion Educativa, were active advocates in preventing the school from closing. After multiple meetings with the district, community talks and constant attention and advocacy from parents, the district decided to remove the school from the list of closures.
Principal Marjorie Mayes says this event was created as a celebration of the school and community.
“Last year we had to go through the threat of possibly being closed given declining enrollment but our parents in our community rallied to help us stay open.” Mayes said. “Now that I’m the new principal I want to continue that mission and celebrate the school in our neighborhood and help get our name out there and let people know we’re here, we want them to know about James.”
The school, which has been open for 113 years, has been a representative of the diverse community that exists in Northeast and plans to continue to host events like this in order to elevate James and teach people the significance of having a neighborhood school. James hopes to have three more large community events, with a posada scheduled for December.
The events will be used as a way to re-engage and integrate parents and community members back into James and develop trust among parents, said Principal Mayes.
Despite the heat, students and families enjoyed free lemonade, popcorn and cotton candy. In addition, there were activities such as bouncy houses, drawing and painting, face painting, and games. Los 3 Hermanos #2 food truck was also present selling tacos during the event. Beyond the games and treats, organizations such as the Mattie Rhodes Center and the Indian Mound Neighborhood Association were also present, offering information on upcoming events and resources.
Third grade teacher Christina Bailey says it’s nice to see so many people come together again for a community event after years of not being able to do so due to the pandemic.
Mother of James students and volunteer, Dalia Rodriguez says that more than anything, the event is a celebration of James and the community after achieving the removal of James on the closures list.
“This is a beautiful event. We were involved when they were going to close James, and we fought for it and now this is the result and just one celebration of so much more to come after we protected the heart of the neighborhood,” Rodriguez said. “This event is an accomplishment of our fight, and the district supported and listened to us as we fought for James. It was just the start of something big and I hope the community will continue to support James in the long run. I hope that it can get bigger and bigger each time, to see the community regardless of language. We are a close-knit community and while the language barrier exists, we showed that it does not mean something is impossible and this event is the result of that.”
To stay up to date with future events and information about James, visit their Facebook page and the KCPS site, www.kcpublicschools.org.