New private magnet high school for visual and performing arts to open in Prairie Village; will serve metro

The classroom building attached to Congregation Ohev Sholom in Prairie Village will be the site of a new arts magnet school.
The classroom building attached to Congregation Ohev Sholom at 5311 75th Street in Prairie Village will be the site of a new arts magnet school.

A new private visual and performing arts magnet high school will open in Prairie Village in August, serving the entire Kansas City metro area.

The Kansas City Metropolitan School of the Arts (MSAKC) will open in temporary quarters in a school owned by Congregation Ohev Sholom at 75th and Nall in Prairie Village. The school plans to open with 100 students this year divided between a Theater and Musical Theater Conservatory and a Vocal Conservatory.

The school will be run by Dr. Stephen Aspleaf who will be the school’s executive director and principal. He is a former administrator in the Kansas City public schools where he was principal of the Kansas City Middle School of the Arts. Aspleaf has spent 31 years in public education. “It was just time to step back,” he said.

Aspleaf said he has been working with a small group of educators and artists for the last eight years and had applied for a charter school on the Missouri side several years ago. The new magnet school will be open to the entire metro. Currently, arts-focused schools exist in both Kansas Cities in the public systems.

Each original conservatory will add 25 students in the second year. In 2016, the school will add a Dance Conservatory with 50 students and in 2017 will add an Instrumental Conservatory with 100 students and a Visual Arts Conservatory with 75 students. Other possible conservatories are filmmaking, costume design and creative writing.

The school will likely stay in Prairie Village for a few years, until it outgrows the building on 75th Street, which can accommodate about 200 students, Aspleaf said. Even then, it is likely the school will stay in Johnson County, he said, because it is believed much of the enrollment will come from Johnson County.

The private school will offer a full high school curriculum including AP classes. Applications deadline is May 1. The tuition is listed at $9,000 with an enrollment fee of $500. The school will be 100 percent tuition driven the first year and then hopes to have enough data to appeal to foundations for support.

Jennifer Robinson and Melba Wright will be artists-in-residence for vocal music. Robinson, of Westwood, has a master’s degree in choral conducting and vocal performance. Most of the faculty has not been named yet. Aspleaf said the school is now recruiting faculty and students and he expects no difficulty rounding out the faculty.

The non-profit school will have a board of directors and an arts advisory council. The school also hopes to expand into a lower division of grades three through eight. MSAKC’s website notes that cities in comparable size to Kansas City, such as Denver, Cincinnati, Cleveland and Seattle, all have visual/performing arts high schools supported by local arts partners and the community.

The school building was built in 1960 as a combination of classrooms and synagogue. Congregation Ohev Sholom moved to Prairie Village from Kansas City, Kan., and is the oldest continuing Jewish congregation in Kansas. The current attached synagogue was built in 1970. From 1966 until about 1980, the school was home to the Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy.

Steven Berman, executive director of Ohev Sholom, said the new school will be leasing classrooms on both floors and a large multi-purpose area.