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Symington Elementary is one of two schools in the Hickman Mills district that will close.

With enrollment declining, Missouri district will close 2 elementary schools

The Hickman Mills district in south Kansas City says it needs to close some campuses to help address budget woes.

The Hickman Mills (Mo.) school board has voted to shutter two elementary schools — less than the number recommended by consultants, but more than many in the community had wanted.

The Kansas City Star reports that the board opted not to follow the recommendations of a consulting group that involved closing three to five elementary schools and restructuring grade levels at the remaining campuses. 

Instead, the board adopted in part a proposal put forth by Superintendent Yolanda Cargile that saves the district the least amount of money: just enough to meet the district’s goal of cutting $5.5 million from its budget and bringing reserves back up to 15 percent.

The schools set to close: Symington Elementary and Johnson Elementary. Cargile had recommended closing Truman Elementary, but the board decided to close Johnson instead.

The chosen plan means other changes for Hickman Mills, which covers the southern parts of Kansas City, Mo.. All remaining elementary schools will house kindergarten through fifth grade.

Sixth-graders, now part of elementary schools, will join seventh- and eighth-graders at Smith-Hale Middle School and the Freshman Center. Ninth-graders will move to Ruskin High School.

The district had indicated in February that it needed to close elementary schools, but it had not settled on how many. The decision is part of $5.5 million in cuts needed to address declining enrollment and tax revenue shortfalls. Officials say that if the district took no action, its savings would be in the red by the 2021-22 school year.

MGT Consulting Group gave the district three options that involved closing as many as five schools. That would have saved anywhere from $8.7 million to $10.4 million.

K-12 enrollment dropped from 6,309 in 2017 to 5,883 this year, and could drop to 4,472 by 2027, the district projects. In addition, the county overestimated the tax revenue Hickman Mills would receive for 2016 and 2017, leading to district overspending that needs to immediately be corrected.

The move to close any schools was strongly opposed by politicians, developers and community members.

“I understand the need to stabilize the District’s fund balance, but let’s not do it in a way that scares off some of our best teachers, hampers our efforts to recruit outstanding teachers, blights our neighborhoods with boarded up schools and seriously damages our District’s image,” Missouri Rep. DaRon McGree wrote to board members.

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