KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Park Hill Board of Education received a first look at possible site plans and facility designs for the district’s 11th elementary school at a work session held earlier this month. On Monday, Oct. 23, officials gathered for a groundbreaking at the chosen location for the district’s new middle school. The new middle school will be located on NW 56th Street — near Southeast Elementary — off of Interstate 29.
Elected officials from the Kansas City, Mo. City Council, Riverside, Houston Lake, Weatherby Lake, Platte Woods as well as Park Hill School District officials were joined by members of local communities as well as students from Plaza Middle School for the official groundbreaking. Representatives from Universal Construction and Hollis and Miller Architects were also in attendance and recognized for their efforts in bringing the new school to life.
“Thanks to all of these people. In just a little more than a year, there’s going to be a beautiful school in this area behind me,” Park Hill superintendent Dr. Jeanette Cowherd said to the audience gathered at the new school site. “Over the last few years, hundreds of students, staff members, parents and community members have contributed to these plans. Thanks to them, we have this vision to keep us going with our growing enrollment.”
Cowherd also stated that in order to incorporate the new middle school into the system, the board will be redistricting most of the schools in order to rebalance both high schools.
“In the next few months, everyone will get to weigh in with their idea to name this new school plus elementary number 11 also,” Cowherd said. “Then the recommendation committee will narrow down the ideas to bring them to the board which will choose the name this coming spring. They will be naming a new principal and that person will help with the process of picking a mascot and school colors.”
Both the elementary and middle school projects are part of voter-approved bond projects to deal with population growth.
The 11th elementary school will be located at Northwest 68th Street and Waukomis Drive on a large wooded parcel made up of former farmland and old-growth hardwoods. Patrons and members of the community have expressed concerns about the site and that the construction of the school facility could destroy natural habitat.
Kevin Nelson of Hollis and Miller said at the work session last week that preserving green space was one of the top priorities in the site design. Staff at the architecture firm presented three potential site plans to the board with early preference already shown to the third option, which created a smaller building footprint and set aside the most woodland to preserve.
The board was also presented with three possible elementary school designs, loosely described as “branch,” “hub” or “stacked” designs. The stacked model had the smallest footprint and outlined a modified three-story school building.
The other two designs were both two-story structures with the branch design more spread out whereas the hub design was based on a central shared space. All designs included separate bus and drop-off entrances.
Board members were encouraged to write down their thoughts on the three design possibilities, with a public forum to hear additional feedback scheduled for 5 to 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 26 at the district office. Patrons are encouraged to attend and provide their preference.
The board also heard the criteria for naming the new elementary school, as well as the new middle school near Houston Lake.
Park Hill director of communications Nicole Kirby said naming committees made up of students, parents, staff members and community members will be formed for each new school. The committees will narrow down public suggestions to three recommendations for the board.
The existing elementary and middle school students will be asked for name suggestions and each school will vote on a name to send on to the committees. Suggestions will also be accepted from the public.
Both names will be selected in March of 2018.
In the past, the board created criteria for naming schools, stating that the name should stand the test of time, be inspiring to students, will unify the district or have geographical, landmark or historic significance. Schools will not be named after a living person or be based on the names of cities within the district, although the names of subdivisions are sometimes acceptable.
The name should not be similar to the name of another school in the area, according to the board.