R-3's boundary line committee sticks with draft, will present to board next week

After weighing the feedback from a recent public forum, Platte County R-3’s boundary line committee plans to move forward with the original idea. The members discussed a potential alternative plan during the last of three scheduled meetings held Tuesday, Dec. 8 at the District Education Center. Ultimately, a consensus preferred the draft shown to the dozens of attendees at the public forum held late last month.

The proposed adjustment to accommodate the opening of Compass Elementary — set to be one of three elementary buildings in the district — will be presented to the Platte County R-3 Board of Education at its regular meeting Thursday, Dec. 17. The board will have the final say on approval.

“You’re nearly done,” said Diane DeBacker, an educational consultant working with RSP Associates — hired to help the district create the scenarios, “and it’s hard to believe you’ve done all this work in such a short time and seemingly come up with such a solid option.”

A total of 19 members worked on the committee — Tammy Kephart, Tammy Collins-Thompson, Amie Elliott, Jennifer Wilson, Cassie Linn, Cory Hall, Chris Thomas, Mary Dixon, Aaron Jung, Buffy Smith, James Everett, Jeanne Modin, Joanna Stusse, Alan Lambert, Sarah Rudis, Justin Tyler, Joshua Nickell, Doc Beeman and Tyler Crawford. The group was made up of community members, including two district staff members. One member resigned from the committee prior to the last meeting, and 13 were present at the time of the final vote.

The committee opted to forward on the original draft by a vote of 10-3 (about 77 percent), while the members unanimously agree to favor the complete feeder system for the two middle schools. That means students at the two elementary schools in Platte City — Compass and Siegrist — will continue on to Platte City Middle School for sixth through eighth grades. Pathfinder Elementary students in the southern portion of the district will go to Barry School.

Although changes to the north attendance area of the district were the main reason to form the committee, the movement of the southern line created the most talk from the public. The proposal will move the north-south line from NW 128th Street to Interstate 435, meaning all students south of I-435 will go to Pathfinder and Barry while those north will now be a part of the Platte City attendance center.

Previously, those south of NW 128th, including Ferrelview, were also a part of the south attendance center.

The selected draft does split Platte City through a north-south line but doesn’t run directly along Fourth Street as originally planned, rather Interstate 29 is used as the main border on the east side. The west portion, which includes the Seven Bridges subdivision, would send students to Compass, while the east side, which includes Lakes at Oakmont and surrounding subdivisions, would be part of Siegriest Elementary.

The alternative plan discussed moving students in the Running Horse and Fox Creek subdivisions into the proposed Siegrist Elementary boundary. To counteract that, all students north of Highway 92 and east of Interstate 29 would have been shifted to Compass Elementary. This would have created an inverse L for Compass’ attendance center with the short part running lengthwise east to west and the long part stretching lengthwise north to south.

The change would help to close the gap in projected enrollment for the schools but would widen the gap in lower income students. Compass is projected to have a higher percentage of low-income students, and those figures could change with development.

RSP does not provide those projections so the eventual impact remains unknown.

There were 10 criteria points the district established to guide the committee, but four were chosen as top priority: keeping neighborhoods intact, factoring in projected growth, contiguous attendance areas and duration of boundaries (listed in order of importance, per the board). Those were used to try and create equitable attendance centers in terms of demographics and educational experience.

“It’s not just a few meetings and a public forum,” Ryan McKay, senior planner with RSP told the committee at the final meeting. “You guys have been living this for a month and a half now because you’ve been talking to your neighbors about this. This something that’s affecting possibly your children, your grandchildren so it is a big deal. It’s a big deal we’ve gotten this far together.”

Reik, McKay and DeBacker will make the presentation to the board next week. Committee members will also be invited to attend and speak but attendance won’t be mandatory.

The alternative plan will not be presented to the board unless specifically requested.

District administration will also consider certain “grandfathering” exceptions, but Platte County superintendent Dr. Mike Reik said those would be limited and likely focus around allowing select students to avoid excess building transitions. The majority of those could come in the southern portion about to see change.

Other concerns were brought up surrounding buses for students originating in one home but departing to another spot. Occasionally, after school child care could be in the boundary of a different elementary than the one the student attends. Parents will likely be asked to adjust to that before the start of the next school year.