Boundary committee tasked with creating line for R-3 elementaries in Platte City

The Platte County R-3 School District’s reputation as rural and small-town will be tested during the next two months. For the first time in its history, a boundary will be used to determine which students will go to which elementary school in Platte City — the northern attendance area of the district. The dispersal will be between Siegrist Elementary and Compass Elementary, currently under construction as part of a multi-million capital improvement project set for completion prior to the 2016-17 school year.

The district’s boundary adjustment committee met for the first time Thursday, Oct. 29, tasked with starting the process. While common themes emerged among the 19 members — divided into five small groups — during the first 2-plus-hour session, no decisions have been made, and the committee will meet twice more along with a public forum before giving a recommendation to the board of education, which will make the final decision on the new boundary.

The committee’s final exercise at the first meeting included drawing up boundaries using ideas and concepts discussed but without knowledge on specific population numbers and demographics. All five groups tended toward using Fourth Street as a dividing line, running southward along its length to NW 136th Street and cutting over east to Running Horse Road and then back south.

Some groups also chose to include downtown Platte City in one section or the other, while other scenarios involved dividing that part of town as well. Others started to tackle the potential of a boundary adjustment in the southern portion of the district, which currently sends students south of NW 120th Street near Ferrelview, Mo. to Pathfinder Elementary and Barry School, while those north go to schools in Platte City.

“We are all looking for a positive outcome,” said Ryan McKay, senior planner with RSP Associates — an education planning consultant with experience helping school districts in five Midwestern states. “This could go a lot of ways, couldn’t it?”

Hired by the district, RSP will utilize data to create enrollment projections and generate scenarios based on committee feedback. The committee — made up of community members, including two district staff members — will use framework from the board of education’s established community values and prioritized criteria for the boundary process to choose a scenario for recommendation.

Committee members include 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.

In addition, the community will have a chance to provide feedback during the open forum, scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 18 in the Wilson Center for Performing Arts at Platte County High School. The public can also attend the committee meetings, which will be Tuesday, Nov. 10 and Tuesday, Dec. 8 — both starting at 6 p.m. at the District Education Center.

The next step will be to take a look at population and demographic areas to ensure “educational opportunities at each school for there to be an equitable student experience,” as noted in the board’s established guiding principles. Set to be a part of the district’s overall plan, the committee will be asked to try and keep neighborhoods intact while also preparing for future growth in student population with contiguous attendance areas.

This will try to avoid creating “islands” and limiting future boundary changes.

An earlier exercise involved the committee groups coming up with ideal newspaper headlines for when the process finishes. All five revolved around a positive outcome with RSP officials reminding the members to keep the end goal in mind.

RSP projects that enrollment at Platte County will increase by more than 600 students during the next five years and hopes to lighten capacity challenges through this process. The elementaries will both function as kindergarten through fifth grade education centers with Rising Star Elementary — the current kindergarten-only facility — being closed at the end of this year and Paxton School (fourth and fifth grade only) being modified before annexation into the high school campus.

Part of the future growth projections are based on build out scenarios and past data that shows that for every 100 residential units being built in the district, the school system gains about 57 new students. District-wide, kindergarten through fifth grade enrollment rose by nearly 800 students in the past 12 years with projections to be up another 300 by 2020-21.

RSP’s previous enrollment projections from 2012-2013 were more than 99 percent accurate for 2014-15 at the elementary and district-wide levels and more than 98 percent accurate at the same levels for 2015-16. Three of the projections came in low with only the district-wide attendance for 2015-16 overestimated (4,060 projected, 4,032 actual).