Hearne: Plaza Academy Makes Bold Move into Heart of Westport Party Zone

One of Kansas City’s most jinxed joints is about to get a new lease on life…

The Plaza Academy, a school for troubled teens is relocating in the heart of Kansas City’s most historic party zone at 610 Westport Road. The move will place the grades 9 through 12 school smack between Kelly’s and the Beaumont Club.

Along a sidewalk that smells like vomit on any given Sunday.

Westport’s Bill Nigro sees it as as a welcome addition to the hood.

"Now we’re a fully integrated community," Nigro says. "We’ve got it all, grocery stores, retail shops, restaurants and bars, and a movie theater. We’re excited to work with them and help their kids get part time jobs. And their history teacher is going to help Westport become a modern historical neighborhood."

The 37 year-old school’s mission that began just east of the Plaza does seem to jibe rather well with Westport’s quirky rep.

"The Plaza Academy was founded to serve exceptional teenagers who were unsuccessful in their previous schools in spite of their potential," it begins. "We care for gifted and talented teens who have academically advanced beyond their peers and who require a more adult academic and social environment. We specialize in working with teens that have learning disabilities or deficits that require a specially designed curriculum and daily individual attention, and still other teens that have socially and developmentally outgrown traditional schools."

A less carefully-worded description of Plaza Academy in Corporate Report magazine in 1987 characterized the school thusly:

"Despite its high-dollar tuition, it caters to more than teenage offspring of Kansas City’s rich and famous…"

Director/founder Gary Seabaugh described Plaza Academy in the story as a "kiddie college."

But times have changed, Seabaugh says.

"We’re unique in that we’re the only high school that’s run in the theraputic paradigm," Seabaugh says. "And in addition to catering to special ed, gifted and talented students, we provide psychological services to the entire family."

The school splashes down in the long-empty former home of no less than three failed Manor Square businesses; Ralph Gaines Lobster Pot, Mill Creek Brewing and Tizer’s at 4050 Pennsylvania. In a Gould Evans designed space, no less.

"We have approximately 50 students now," Seabaugh says. But our new building will allow us to have 80 families – 80 kids. We’ve stopped our enrollment here because we were out of space."

As for the prospect of intergrating the kids into some of Westport’s rowdier wildings, such as St. Patrick’s Day and the beer-soaked Cancer Crawls, not to worry, Nigro says.

"They even have a class that teaches women self-defence."

Seabaugh isn’t worried.

"We’re in what I call the corporate section of Westport now, so we’re just moving two blocks east," he says. "Westport is really a very robust part of the city during the day, and for us, we’re really just rough and ready. We’ve always been in the heart of the action and we’re not afraid to go anywhere.

"Besides, the kids are in and out between 8:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. and of course, we close the school on St. Patrick’s Day. One year we were going to set up a hotdog stand and sell hotdogs to drunks, but we decided against it."

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One Response to Hearne: Plaza Academy Makes Bold Move into Heart of Westport Party Zone

  1. Johnny says:

    I guess they are using the “start em young and they will be fans for life” method of trying to keep Westport alive.

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