North Platte board approves building realignment for district

DEARBORN, Mo. — The North Platte Board of Education altered the alignment of its three campuses during its regular session Wednesday, Feb. 17 at North Platte Junior High School. 

The move will put the district’s third grade classes into North Platte Intermediate School in Edgerton and the sixth grade classes into the junior high school in Dearborn. North Platte superintendent Karl Matt first brought the issue before the board last month before recommending the change.

The board approved the measure with a unanimous 7-0 vote.

“It’s all dictated by the projected enrollment,” Matt said. “We have a lot of the bigger classes in the younger grades and the smaller ones up here in the older grades. What started prompting the discussion was those are awful big classes (in the younger grades). The whole thing I started thinking about back in September. There had to be a better way.

“We wanted to help out the students in the younger grades without taking away from the older grades. That’s the part that slowed us down.”

The move realigns the district for the first time since 1983 when the district moved from two K-7 schools split between the Edgerton and Camden Point campuses to the current alignment of grades K-3 in Camden Point, 4-6 in Edgerton and 7-12 in Dearborn.

One of the biggest stumbling blocks was figuring out the scheduling in the junior high school building.
The mechanics will feature each grade split into two groups and will send one half to one subject and the other to another before switching. The split nature of the classes will help the move remain permanent as more students ascend to the junior high school.

Currently, there are 280 students on the Dearborn campus — seventh through 12th grades. The 64 students in the 2016 graduating class will come off the books but 94 students, currently in fifth and sixth grade, will add up to an enrollment of 310.

One of the big hang ups was deciding how the Dearborn campus would continue to function when the larger classes currently in the elementary and intermediate schools rotate into the high school.

“The other part that slowed us down is are we going to want to go back and change it in a couple of years?” Matt said. “We were set up well for 700-750 kids. The question now is what’s the right set up for 600-650 kids. At the same time, though, we have to be set up properly that if we grow back to 700 kids — which we would like — we don’t need to be making changes.

“That’s what took a while and why we weren’t discussing this two months ago, to make sure we have something that works well right now but also five years from now if we grow back to 700 kids.”

The district held three meetings in each of its campuses in the week ahead of the board’s vote.

About 40 people attended from the community, and Matt said the biggest concern would be how the sixth graders would fit into the more mature setting. The first-year superintendent said there would not be a lot of mixture of the sixth graders into activities at the school as sixth-graders are not allowed to participate in MSHSAA-affiliated sports.

A standalone sixth grade band would also remain, rather than add students to the middle school band.

“We think we have a good plan, one that will work and really benefit our kids K through 12,” Matt said. “Most of the concerns were how the sixth grade would integrate in and would it take anything away from the high school, and we don’t believe it will.”

The move allows the two current sixth grade teachers to move down in class ranks to create smaller class sizes and the district to not replace a retiring staff member.

“We really believe small class sizes in primary grades is one reason we’ve had solid assessment scores all the way through high school,” Matt said. “If we don’t move the sixth grade, if we’re doing what’s right by the kids, we should replace the retiring staff member, and we should probably hire one more. We have to do what’s right by the kids, but if we can accomplish the same thing without adding staff members, I think we have to try and jump on it.”

The board also approved the 2016-17 calendar. School is set to begin on Thursday, Aug. 18, and the last day is set for Tuesday, May 16, barring any make up days due to weather.

The district also will not hold classes the day before Thanksgiving, will dismiss for winter break on Wednesday, Dec. 21 and return on Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2017.

Matt also updated the board on the outlook for the 2016-17 budget.

Assessed valuation is expected to drop 10 percent with the completion of the Iatan-Nashua power line project causing some loss of local revenue for the district. Matt proposed a balanced budget as the district begins work on the numbers for next year.

The district also exercised its last contract option year with OPAA! Food Services before it must be put out to bid again next year.