Reimagining Education

KC charter school focuses on culture, service, and diversity

One of Kansas City’s leading charter schools, Academie Lafayette, focuses on exposing students to a wide range of cultures and service opportunities.

The K-8 French emersion school only admits students when they are kindergartners, creating an inclusive school family with a mission to “educate the children of Kansas City to become globally minded, locally active, critical thinkers through immersion in world languages and cultures.”

The school has a diverse staff, drawing native French speakers from throughout the world — all of whom share not just their language but their country’s own culture with the students.

In sixth grade, the students get a chance to explore the world on their own.

Sixth-graders get the opportunity to spend two weeks studying and living with host families throughout France — an invaluable first-hand exposure to world cultures.

Middle school students also participate in the globally respected International Baccalaureate Middle Years Program (IBMYP) which focuses on developing responsible global citizenship, intercultural awareness, and community service.

As part of the IBMYP program, eighth-grade students develop and implement a service project, either in the Kansas City area to help people throughout the world.

School adresses diversity issues

According to a recent article in the Kansas City Star, Academie Lafayette is a victim of its own success when it comes to diversity.

The school started out with a diverse student body with 60 percent African-American when it opened in 1999.

“That was our template,” the head of Academie Lafayette, Elimane Mbengue, told the Star.

But during the Great Recession, Academie Lafayette’s language emersion program and high test scores made it a favorite choice for white families looking for alternatives to failing district schools but unable to pay tuition at private schools.

In 2009, the school had its largest incoming class — 139 students, 70 percent of whom were white. Because the school gives preference to siblings for future enrollments that meant that several years of enrollment brought in a predominantly white student body.

Today the school is fighting to bring more diversity back to the school. They are actively working with preschools in minority and low-income neighborhoods, have simplified their admissions process and are sending recruiters to minority churches and registration events.

As a result, the school is seeing enrolment swinging toward a more inclusive student body.

“I’m hoping that in three years, the school will look more like the rest in the city,” told the Star. “I think in three years the trend will be reversed, something close to 47 percent white and 53 percent minority, or maybe 50-50.”

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