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Schools First

Kansas City is unique. We have fourteen different school districts, couple of dozen charter schools, and even more faith-based schools. There is a strong connection between school quality and neighborhood quality. A good school attracts families to the neighborhood and boosts property values, while poorly performing schools can exacerbate the cycle of disinvestment and population loss. Therefore, each school deserves a clean, safe neighborhood that can help it thrive.

Safety is often the primary concern parents cite for not wanting their children to walk to school. Of course, the most important safety measure is having more cops patrolling our neighborhoods.

But other safety issues can be resolved by repairing sidewalks, crosswalks, crossing signals, traffic signs or signals and street lighting. In addition children and parents feel safer walking in an environment free from dangerous buildings, graffiti, excessive weeds and overgrown trees on unkempt or abandoned properties.

“Schools First” is designed to create islands of safety around in and every school in Kansas City. It is a five-part approach to improve conditions in a fifty-square-block area around each of Kansas City’s more than 200 schools. The plan will:

  • Increase the presence of cops and crossing guards around each school;
  • Provide a no-tax increase bond initiative to target infrastructure improvements around schools;
  • Obtain a commitment from the Mayor, City Council and the City Manager to focus city services, including noise abatement, weed removal, dangerous building demolition and snow removal around schools;
  • Work with the schools to apply for available state, federal and private grant monies for “walk to school” type programs;
  • Provide a dedicated staff function inside city hall to act as a liaison to every school in Kansas City

Accomplishments Of The Schools First Initiative, To Date
  • The Mayor and City Council approved $24 million in neighborhood improvement projects through the city’s Public Improvement Advisory Committee (PIAC). The pent up need for those improvements were more than obvious as the City received more than 1,000 requests for infrastructure improvements such as streets, curbs and sidewalks, storm water control, signage, and traffic lights, many of which were for projects around schools;
  • The Mayor and City Council directed the City Manager to establish a system to prioritize neighborhood projects and basic services in June 2010;
  • The Neighborhood and Community Services Department surveyed schools, asking for their concerns regarding property code violations and service needs in neighborhoods around schools. The department has prioritized its code enforcement efforts in areas around schools;
  • I directed the City Manager to apply for grants from various foundation and government agencies to fund programs that facilitate and encourage kids walking to school, such as the Healthy Lifestyles Grant from the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City. The city was granted $244,525 to implement the “Active Living KC” project to support safe routes to school and more active lifestyle in the city;
  • The Office of Civic and Community Engagement has been established to serve as a governmental emissary for schools and to build a partnership coalition of schools, the city and civic organizations

Community Quotes On The Schools First Initiative

“I like the comprehensive nature of the approach. Sidewalks and other infrastructure around schools would be a valuable improvement.”
~ Dr. Dennis Fisher, Park Hill School District Superintendent

"The initiative would strengthen our neighborhoods, make our schools and communities safer, and improve the quality of life for all in Kansas City. The infrastructure improvements and increased safety are desperately needed."
~ Jude Huntz, Director, Human Rights Office,
Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph

“Schools are the indispensable center of every stable neighborhood. The school is the closest, most accessible and often the most visible institution in any neighborhood – rich or poor, old or new, urban or suburban. Putting schools at the center of our thinking and efforts makes enormous practical sense. It is needed, long overdue and worthy of our best efforts.”
~ Landon Rowland, Chairman, LINC Commission

"Economic development of distressed areas is critical for our success. Schools are at the core of reaching those goals. Improving infrastructure and safety around our schools should be a top priority."
~ Mike Chesser, CEO, Great Plains Energy

"With these five points, you are attacking the major problems in Kansas City, Missouri. I support you and commend you for doing that."
~ Bert Berkely, Chairman,
Tension Envelope Corporation, Founder, LINC Commission

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