Districts could end up in court over buildings

Monday, July 7, 2008

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A debate over seven school buildings could land the Independence and Kansas City school districts in court today.

The two sides have been haggling over compensation due to Kansas City and the transfer of titles to Independence after a boundary-change vote last November put the buildings in Independence.

Independence has pending litigation in Jackson County Circuit Court in hopes of gaining possession and control of the seven buildings. A hearing is scheduled for this morning.

Representatives of both school districts, along with the not-for-profit corporation that owns the buildings, met for four hours in a closed-door meeting Saturday but failed to reach an agreement. Discussions are expected to continue, though no other joint meetings were planned.

"We are near complete resolution of all the issues," Kansas city interim superintendent John Martin said.

Last week, education commissioner Kent King demanded that the Independence School District get access to the seven schools. He told the Kansas City Star that Independence needs access to the schools to get ready for the upcoming school year, decrying obstruction by the Kansas City District.

A Jackson County judge also denied requests from Kansas City Building Corp., which had leased the schools to Kansas City, to delay the school transfer until the legal issues were resolved.

The previous week, an arbitration panel ruled that Independence owes $17.1 million for a high school and a middle school. It also said the suburban district also is entitled to $4.2 million from Kansas City's operational reserves.

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