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Kansas City Braces for School Closings, Budget Cuts

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UPDATE (3/11): The Kansas City, Mo. school board voted 5-4 last night to accept Superintendent John Covington's closing plan. The closings, which will also include the central office, are just the first of many changes coming to the district, spokeswoman Eileen Houston-Stewart. Look for more details on this and other school transformation plans underway in a story by yours truly in the next issue of Education Week.

Nearly half the public schools in Kansas City, Mo., will close their doors, and $50 million will be slashed from the budget, if the school board approves a plan tomorrow night aimed at right-sizing the district.

The plan submitted by Superintendent John Covington calls for closing 26 of 61 schools. He also hopes to later tackle contracts he told the Kansas City Star duplicate services already being provided by district employees.

Covington has moved swiftly since taking over last summer to reduce staff and create efficiencies in a district that has maintained its buildings and large staff even as student enrollment dropped precipitously in the past decade.

The changes are long overdue, said Michael Casserly, the executive director of the Washington-based Council of the Great City Schools. The council did a report a few years ago that told the district it desperately needed to close some buildings and use the money to work on academics.

"They are operating too many buildings with too few systems, and it is bleeding the system dry," Casserly said in an interview last night. "I don't know if [Covington] has targeted the right number of schools, but I think it is pretty evident that they've got too many buildings for their enrollment."

You can hear more about the plans for Kansas City from Covington himself in this video, courtesy of the Kansas City Star.

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