City approves permit for new private school

Tuesday, December 5, 2017
Daniel Kerr of Fort Scott explains his plan for a private secondary school to Fort Scott City Commissioners on Tuesday.
Jason E. Silvers

Fort Scott City Commissioners on Tuesday lent support to a proposal to operate a private secondary school on land at 1950 Indian Road southwest of Fort Scott.

Daniel Kerr of Fort Scott, founder and president of St. Martin’s Academy, appeared before the commission to provide more information on the proposal. Kerr said the plan is to open the academy, a boarding and Catholic school for ninth and 10th grade boys, in fall 2018. He shared a drawing of the school plan with commissioners.

Kerr said students from all across the country will be able to attend the traditional Catholic school, which will combine a liberal arts program with a traditional working farm.

“This is a project I’ve been discerning, thinking and praying about for several years,” Kerr said.

The Fort Scott Planning Commission, at its Nov. 20 meeting, recommended to the city commission the conditional use permit be granted for the property to operate the secondary school.

According to minutes of the commission’s Nov. 20 meeting, part of students’ studies will include connecting with the food they eat and “good old fashioned hard work.” Kerr stressed the school will not be a reform school or a school to assist troubled students.

Kerr said students will be charged tuition and financial aid will be available to assist students. All applicants will be carefully screened and staff will make sure all students are “upstanding in nature,” minutes from that meeting said.

On Tuesday, Kerr said he had been thinking of “how to invest in the community,” and thinks the school will provide benefits to the community. Kerr moved to Fort Scott with his wife and four children.

“My family and I moved here and hope to live here the rest of our lives,” he said. “What I’m really excited about is the prospect of the direct impact.”

Kerr also said he believes there will be economic benefits as the school will draw students and their families to Fort Scott.

“There would potentially be an infusion of money … with families moving here,” he said. “We’ll have some joining our faculty.”

The school will have a headmaster, Patrick Welund. The first phase of the project would involve a building that would serve as a commons hall with a kitchen, dining room and residential quarters for students and full-time faculty. The second phase would include additional dormitories; phase three would involve construction of a library, and the fourth and final phase would include the construction of a chapel.

Kerr said the phases for the school could take five to 10 years to complete. The plan is to start with 12 to 15 students with a capacity for 48 students by the fourth or fifth year. He said the plan is for the school to eventually encompass all high school grade levels.

Commissioner Randy Nichols asked how the school would interact with the USD 234 public school system and its facilities in the future.