You could cut down on travel time by going the back way through neighborhood yards.
In the 1990s, you didn’t have to worry much about crossing traffic while crossing Second Street, and then there were more yards to squeeze through down to the creek and then up the crudely walked trail. I knew the path from my boyhood home to Platte City Elementary well.
I haven’t been back in years to see if the route still exists.
I made the trips — alone or with my brother and/or sister, maybe some friends here and there — sometimes daily. We would go to hang out with “The Adventure Club,” students in the after-school program at the time who played outdoors when the weather allowed.
An easy way to hangout as children and pass the time until mom and dad came home from work.
I recall an Adventure Club afternoon when a ball went over the fence into a man’s property. When he refused to return it to us, Spencer Foster called him an expletive.
Kids repeat the darndest things.
I have lots of memories of the long, old building with the alternating brick and glass cube walls. I vaguely remember classes there — learning “The Letter People” with Mrs. Short, reading to my classmates in Mrs. Roberts’ first-grade class and the “warm fuzzies” Mrs. Nespory gave out in second grade to reward behavior.
I lost a lot of those because I talked too much.
Many more of the memories come from recess, trying to send a kickball up the hill and over the adjoining fence or trying to steal a kiss, probably from Vanessa Parker, in the small grove of trees near the playground. My brother broke his arm navigating the rings on a set of playground equipment probably now gone for at least a generation.
I’m also not sure if the cement bench dedicated to classmate Kyla Tiller, killed in a tragic accident back in first grade, remains on the grounds.
Those are my memories of Platte City Elementary, and maybe they don’t mean much to you. Chances are, if you attended the school in the past 60-plus years, you have your own memories.
That’s what makes the oldest building still in use for the Platte County R-3 School District so unique: the varied history provides so many different perspectives. No other building encapsulates the changes the district has gone through due to residential growth than what today’s kids will remember as Rising Star Elementary.
The building opened in 1954 housing first through sixth grades. Students didn’t even have a principal on site until 1958, which seems a bit crazy from today’s perspective.
Kindergarten started in 1964, requiring tuition on a first-come, first-serve basis. By the mid-1970s, Platte City Elementary could only handle kindergarten through third grades.
When I made my trip through its halls, we went kindergarten through second with a trailer added on the property to accommodate art and music classes. A little more than two decades later, kindergarten is the only grade still there, and it’s been that way since 2002.
Platte County’s growth management over the years has always included patchwork solutions that help the district get by until a new building can be constructed to handle the increased students. Those plans always included Rising Star until recently.
The building’s use as a school has come down to its final weeks, ready to be shut down as kindergarten is absorbed into Platte City’s Siegrist Elementary and Compass Elementary, the school’s newest building currently under construction.
Both will house kindergarten through fifth grades.
Officials could no longer justify putting money into a building that has become functionally obsolete. The change also hopes to eliminate some inefficiencies in transportation, specifically for buses and parents with a kindergarten student in addition to kids at one or more of the other buildings.
The district has planned a farewell event for Thursday, May 5 at the school.
Some have been invited to share their memories, and I’m eager to hear the perspective. I’ll probably relate to some, marvel at others and shake my head to hear how teachers and administrators functioned there in its final days.
Some day, the plot of land might house a parking lot or government building or Platte City community pool. The possibilities will be explored in the coming months or possibly even years, ready to change the story of a place that served as a learning center for thousands of Platte City’s youth.
I don’t think I’ll take my old path to the ceremony, but I might walk around and see what reminds me of those days long gone.
Ross Martin is publisher of The Citizen. He may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @Citizen_Ross.