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Just getting the kids though the front doors and past security was an ordeal.
"They dropped us off on the side of the building, and we had to walk around, and you'd see this big ol' line of people," Lockhart says. "Like they're waiting on a premiere or something."
The fights started from day one, Lockhart and Moore say. Right-sizing meant consolidating student populations from all over the district. And anyone who understands gang warfare in Kansas City knows that the neighborhood you claim can be of grave importance.
"It gets pretty chaotic," Lockhart says. "Kids from the 50s, the 30s, the 20s just be all under one roof."
"They'll be so-called 'funking with the side' or something," Moore says, laughing at his awkwardness with the phrase, which means challenging someone based on their neighborhood allegiance.
Lockhart and Moore aren't interested in street life. They wanted to go to Southwest to learn. It caused a few problems for Moore.
"How can I put this — " he starts out. "People who feel that you think you're better than them, in a way, or see that you got stuff that they don't have, they mess with you or try to take your stuff or something. I was a victim of that. But my brother and my friends had my back."
The district's alternative schools were closed under the right-sizing effort. But after fights spiked at Southwest, district administrators started plucking students out, placing them in a hastily created program-within-a-program at Manual Career Technical Center, the district's vocational school.
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to predict that a disorganized environment will encourage bad behavior from kids who are prone to acting out. But even simpler predictions turned out to be beyond the district's planning capabilities.
At the start of the year, the district hired Scholastic Scheduling Solutions to create schedules for the students. But the company put kids in classes that they'd already passed, among other widespread snafus.
"The counselors had to call us down and get it straightened out, but it took a couple weeks to get through the list," Lockhart says. "You'd be going to the wrong classes until then. Just wasting time, sitting there learning stuff you already know."
In the classrooms, teachers fought for consistency.
"It drove me crazy," Smith says. "I had kids coming in and out of my classroom, it seemed like daily. Our counselors had to reschedule everybody by hand."
The cafeteria wasn't equipped to handle the crush. There were still students waiting in the cafeteria line when school was being dismissed. "I had fifth lunch, which is one of the last lunch periods," Lockhart says. "It took us a long time to get our lunch, and even then, like, all the ketchup would be used and stuff. They didn't have enough supplies to feed all the kids. So we'd have to get a bag of chips or something."
Amid the chaos, Smith says, Scraggs was negotiating with the district, fighting to hold together the scraps of his early college program. Covington wanted Southwest to use America's Choice, a cookie-cutter curriculum that he'd foisted upon the district's traditional high schools at the end of the summer, just a week before school started. Soon, instructional coaches were sniffing around Smith's classroom and sending her e-mails, reminding her that she needed to follow the America's Choice script.