Park Hill School District seeks feedback on proposal of new middle school

The Park Hill School District wants the public’s feedback on its possible fourth middle school at an open house scheduled for next week.

An open house will be held for the community from 4 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 23 at the district office. Hollis and Miller architects will present several different design options for the potential school building.

The project would be funded through a $110 million no-tax-increase bond issue on the April 4 municipal election ballot. As part of last year’s long-term planning process, the district identified construction of a fourth middle school facility as a priority need.

The middle school project came in as one of the most costly projects on the bond issue with construction of a more than 100,000 square foot middle school estimated at $34.4 million at $229 per square foot.

Late last year, the district purchased a 6.21-acre parcel at NW 56th Street and N Northwood Road at a price of $136,500, next to additional property the district purchased in August. The future middle school would be constructed on these properties. 

Other needs determined in the master plan are construction of a new elementary school and the “innovation studio” for high school students to alleviate overcrowding at both high schools. 

Other projects on the slate include construction of a support services facility, maintenance work and other school improvements. Depending on economic conditions, it could also include building a transportation facility.

At the board of education meeting held Thursday, Feb. 9, the board was updated on that innovation studio, now named LEAD, standing for “lead,” “empower,” “aspire” and “dream.” LEAD is a full-day high school program billed with immersing students in a flexible, personalized learning environment. 

To relieve high school overcrowding identified during the long-range planning process, as well as to offer additional programs to students, the district launched a high school program which will be held at a to-be-announced leased space.

Last month, current Park Hill district coordinator for curriculum and student services Dr. Ryan Stanley was named as the principal of LEAD. Staff are currently being interviewed to transfer from the existing high schools to LEAD and about 150 student applications had been received as of last week. 

The program will start in the 2017-18 school year with freshmen, while 11th and 12th graders will be able to enroll in a half-day program, including professional studies internships to fan out across the community to learn directly from professionals in the fields that interest them.

Over the next four years, the full-day program at the LEAD Innovation Studio will expand to include sophomores, then juniors and then seniors with the upperclassmen continuing to experience professional studies internships.

While students will take all their classes at the LEAD Innovation Studio, they will still be Park Hill Trojans or Park Hill South Panthers, and they will be able to participate in activities at their home high schools, such as band, sports and dances.