Westport High School

At a special August 26th, 2013, evening session of the board of directors for Académie Lafayette a motion was offered then unanimously passed to authorize the high school planning committee to enter into non-binding negotiations with a developer (or developers) for the purpose of securing a lease of KCPS’ Westport High School in order to open an International Baccalaureate high school.

Though the A.L. board declined to name which developers were under consideration, the firm BNIM has long partnered with Académie Lafayette, most recently on the ill-fated Oak Street campus expansion as well as the Cherry Street campus rehabilitation. BNIM, in partnership with several other firms, recently submitted an April 2013 a mixed-use proposal to rehab Westport High and Westport Middle Schools. The KCPS Q&A resulting from that proposal and another from the Foutch Brothers can be read here.

(August 29th Update: According to the Star, it appears Académie Lafayette will partner with Foutch Brothers, who also submitted a bid to rehab both Westport and Wetsport Middle Schools.)

The A.L. board anticipates the cost of refurbishment necessary to re-open Westport High, combined with Académie Lafayette’s lack of sufficient capital to finance the project outright, would  result in  a mixed-use facility, with the new high school sharing space with a combination of residential, community and retail space.

It is as yet unclear how Académie Lafayette would pay for rehabbing Westport High and operate a new high school; BNIM’s April proposal (for Westport High School alone) totaled nearly $17 million dollars. Estimates to open and run a new high school provided by erstwhile KCPS SWECC principle Steve Scraggs put initial costs at $1 million dollars.

Académie Lafayette refinanced its Oak Street campus last year in order to combine a new loan for the purchase the Cherry Street campus. Additionally the A.L. board last month approved building an addition to the Cherry Street campus that as yet has no signed loan package.

There has been speculation among knowledgeable sources that due to Dr. Green’s past association with the Académie Lafayette board the KCPS may offer a reduced or “nominal” lease arrangement to the school.

That KCPS is even considering such a reuse proposal from the successful charter stands in stark contrast to the district’s stance just four years ago when then Superintendent Dr. Covington deemed charter schools ‘enemies’ of the district; Covington responded to Académie Lafayette’s initial overture back then to purchase Westport High School by stating he would not consider selling a building to A.L. until and unless the school collaborated with the district to open a combined KCPS/A.L. high school.

The board intends the proposed high school be opened under Académie Lafayette’s existing charter with University of Central Missouri. The school would automatically accept Académie Lafayette graduates and fill out the remaining Freshman class seats with “well qualified applicants.”

The proposed Freshman class size for 2015, the proposed opening year, would be 100 students. The next and expected ensuing years class size is anticipated to be set at 150.

Académie Lafayette currently graduates around 40 eighth grade students annually.

According to the board, further details — to include Académie Lafayette’s as yet unpublished three year Strategic Plan which purports to cover this idea in detail — will be forthcoming in the next 3-4 weeks.

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