Local Schools

Lack of financial support leads to closing of KCK school

Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann opened up the 2023-24 school year by celebrating Mass at Christ the King School in Kansas City, Kansas. Unfortunately, the school announced on March 6 that it would be closing at the end of the school year. The last day of class will be on May 22. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JAY SOLDNER

by Joe Bollig

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — First came the shock when it was announced on March 6 that Christ the King School here would close at the end of the academic year.

Following that came something else: determination.

“Our attitude is that we have two options as our doors close,” said Alex Weibel, principal for only a year. “We either sit in sorrow or embrace this for our remaining three months together, to make these the best three months ever to celebrate our school and community.”

There will be a school carnival on May 8 and likely a thanksgiving Mass for the fruits of 80 years of Catholic education at Christ the King sometime in May or June. The last day of class is May 22.

“There will be mourning, but we’ll celebrate what our school is and has been,” said Weibel. “There are things outside of our control and this is one of them. We must surrender it to the Lord and trust what he has planned for Christ the King, the families and the staff. All we can control is how we go about these next three months.

“I’m very impressed with and proud of our families, our students and our staff for their attitude. Let’s make it to the end of the school year with dignity and school pride.”

The decision to close the school was made in consultation with the pastor Father Nick Blaha, the archdiocesan school office and outside consultants, wrote Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann in a March 11 letter to parishioners and school families.

The closure is “due to the lack of financial support needed to continue the school’s operations,” wrote the archbishop. “Despite considerable prayers, reflection and analysis, the resources available to bridge the financial gap were not sufficient.”

For this school year, Christ the King has 197 students in grades from prekindergarten to eighth grade. Counting the principal, it has a faculty and staff of 26.

The long-term trends have been against the school for decades.

“There has been a decline in enrollment and that decline has increased in the last two years or so,” said archdiocesan superintendent of schools Vince Cascone. “Christ the King has always had struggles financially.  Those struggles have increased significantly.”

Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann celebrates Mass alongside Father Nick Blaha, left, and Father Keith Chadwick, at Christ the King Church in Kansas City, Kansas, as part of a visit to the parish school on Aug. 31, 2023. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JAY SOLDNER

Cascone said the school has been successful as an educational institution.  In 2020, the school was named an Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann CEF School of Excellence winner.

“The Catholic Education Foundation is currently funding 86 percent of the students [with partial scholarships] enrolled in Christ the King School, totaling $365,000 this year,” said Father Blaha, pastor since 2019. “That’s the most we’ve ever received from CEF. They’ve increased their funding every year.”

In a letter on the parish website, Father Blaha wrote that support came from many quarters, but it still wasn’t enough.

“Our attempts this year to fundraise within our community and beyond provided an outpouring of generous assistance, including from our own families who committed to faithfully making their tuition payments and covering the outstanding debts of the school,” he wrote.

“Additionally, the archdiocese has provided extensive levels of financial support over the years,” he continued, “most of all during this current academic year. We would like to extend our gratitude to those who helped us secure monetary and in-kind donations from the wider community.”

From left, Father Nick Blaha, Father Keith Chadwick and Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann tour the halls of Christ the King School in Kansas City, Kansas, on Aug. 31, 2023. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JAY SOLDNER

Father Blaha, Cascone and Weibel said Christ the King School and the archdiocese would work with other archdiocesan Catholic schools so students can continue their Catholic education, and faculty and staff can find other employment opportunities.

The archdiocesan schools nearest to Christ the King are Resurrection (adjoining the cathedral), St. Patrick School at State Avenue and 94th St., Our Lady of Unity School at Shawnee Drive and S. 34th St. and Holy Name School at 1007 Southwest Blvd. 

One unresolved question is what to do with the school.

“I want our parish to come together to answer that question of how we can put our resources at the service of people who need our support,” said Father Blaha.

He foresees a mix of activities in the building — catechesis, meetings, education and community activities and music lessons.

“There have been a number of members of the community who have expressed their sorrow at the closing of the school but have approached us asking if we’d be open to renting space,” said Father Blaha. “I think the parish would have to discern together based on a sense of partnering with someone, such as with the pregnancy center.”

Like his parishioners and the school families, Father Blaha is experiencing the sadness that has come with this decision, but he has also experienced understanding, support and peace.

“So many of our families and benefactors rose to the occasion to pull together and pitch in for the sake of our children,” he said. “So much virtue, and determination, and generosity were visible in a great many people who care about Christ the King School, and no account of our story would be complete without including them and thanking them for the good they’ve done.”

About the author

Joe Bollig

Joe has been with The Leaven since 1993. He has a bachelor’s degree in communications and a master’s degree in journalism. Before entering print journalism he worked in commercial radio. He has worked for the St. Joseph (Mo.) News-Press and Sun Publications in Overland Park. During his journalistic career he has covered beats including police, fire, business, features, general assignment and religion. While at The Leaven he has been a writer, photographer and videographer. He has won or shared several Catholic Press Association awards, as well as Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara awards for mission coverage. He graduated with a certification in catechesis from a two-year distance learning program offered by the Maryvale Institute for Catechesis, Theology, Philosophy and Religious Education at Old Oscott, Great Barr, in Birmingham, England.

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  • It is sad to kill a community like CTK! And the Leaven needs to get the facts from a good source before they print untruths.

  • Wow, my whole childhood at CTK is fading from human history. Very hard to handle. My dad and many others, literally built that church, I was blessed to help open the shipping crates containing the statue of Christ and help assemble it. So many memories