Platte County R-3 board approves adjusted boundaries

Platte County R-3’s adjusted boundary went from first draft to proposal to approval in a matter of just a few days. After four meetings of the district’s boundary adjustment committee and a public forum, the Platte County Board of Education reviewed the recommendation at its Thursday, Dec. 17 meeting. Members voted 6-0 with Gary Brown absent to finalize the new boundary, which sets up attendance centers for the district’s three elementary and two middle schools.

The district adjusted the boundary to accommodate the opening of Compass Elementary, currently under construction as part of a voter-approved $27-million capital improvement project. The building is scheduled to open next fall.

“There wasn’t always agreement,” said Diane DeBacker, an educational consultant working with RSP Associates – hired by the district to help create boundary scenarios. “But I just have to say, we get to be in a lot of communities, and I’ve been in education; I’ve been a local board of education member. This is a really tough decision, but your committee and your community made it really easy.

“I walked away from last week’s meeting just really trying to pinch myself because it doesn’t usually go this smoothly.”

Although the addition of an elementary school in the north area of the district was the main reason to form the committee, the project looked at the district as a whole.

The adopted boundary moves the north-south line from NW 128th Street down 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. District administrators will consider grandfathering cases for students affected by this change in an attempt to minimize unnecessary building changes.

Previously, those between NW 128th and I-435, including Ferrelview, were also a part of the south attendance center.

The new boundary generally splits 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 Siegrist Elementary.

The committee adopted a preferred draft at its third meeting and took that to a public forum days later. A few dozen patrons attended to ask questions.

The boundaries also provide for a complete feeder system, a preference of the committee.

All Pathfinder Elementary students (kindergarten through fourth grade) will attend Barry School (fifth through eighth grade). All students and Compass and Siegrist elementaries (kindergarten through fifth grade) will go to Platte City Middle School (sixth through eighth grade).

A total of 19 people, including two district staff 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. One member resigned from the committee prior to the last meeting, and 13 were present at the time of the final vote on Tuesday, Dec. 8.

After receiving that feedback along with online comments, the committee voted 10-3 at the final meeting to forward the draft on to the board. Favoring the feeder system unanimously passed.

“I’ve grown up in this community, 42 years here,” board member Adam McGinness said. “I’ve got a student affected by this decision. One thing I’ve learned: change is hard for Platte City. You definitely have the old and new. This is an anchor of the community. Naturally, as a board, we knew once this passed we had this scenario that would be a big, big decision, and we knew it would be hard to come to an agreement.

“I’m just glad we did not have to come up with this scenario, very glad the 19 members were there to do that. I respect your time and your decision.”

Six members of the committee attended the board meeting, and all took time to provide brief comments on the process.

There were 10 criteria points the board of education 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.

Committee members were asked to use those in guiding their decision, while also trying to ignore personal grievances or outside perceptions of why or how it was being made.

“I thought we were very well informed throughout the process,” said Hall, a committee member and Platte County graduate. “I’ve spoken to a lot of people in the community. Some were for this entire change; obviously, some were against. A lot of naysayers out there who don’t believe in the board and what they are trying to accomplish, as far as the mission of the district itself. A lot of concerns.

“We had a lot of comments made outside of the boundary committee meeting that were very disheartening from some of the public, but I think it was to be expected. I’m very pleased in how the entire process went.”