Platte County's long-range plan calls for new middle school

After 11 meetings over the past year and a half, the Platte County R-3 Long-Range Facility Plan Task Force revealed their findings during the June school board meeting.

The board of education approved the criteria for the group, which features 35 people, a mix of staff members, district residents and community leaders.

The most notable suggestions include building a new middle school near Highway 152 and Platte Purchase Road, while shuffling the grades at Pathfinder and Barry School. Another suggestion was renovating the high school, though there was talk about a second high school at some point, but that isn’t in the immediate future.

Using an estimation of enrollment in 2021-22, both Compass and Pathfinder will be above 100 percent capacity and Barry will be right behind at 94 percent.

“We will have to address the growth alone,” said Jay Harris, executive director of operations. “Kindergarten through fifth grade has the highest need for capacity moving forward.”

There were five facility priorities that were identified, led by the new middle school.

The others were renovating the high school, early childhood improvements, Northland Career Center improvement and district-wide safety and technology updates.

The official recommendation for a long-term plan will be brought to the board in June of 2019, with thoughts of a no tax levy increase bond issue in either 2020 or 2021.

The most radical change would be a new middle school on the 80-acre site in the southern portion of the county. That would case a ripple effect, converting Barry School to a K-5 building and adding fifth graders to Pathfinder Elementary.

Barry currently houses fifth through eighth grade and Pathfinder is kindergarten to fourth grade. Barry currently has about 250 less students then Platte City Middle School, but now the students are shuttled to Platte City to compete in school sponsored activities.

The new middle school construction would put two identical K-5 buildings right next to each other on NW 87th Terrace in Kansas City.

Harris noted boundaries and logistics would need to be figured out but having two similar schools next to each other is not ‘odd’ compared to other districts.

Pathfinders and Barry students would feed into the new school, while Siegrist and Compass schools would feed into Platte City Middle School. The change would be educational equity to the district, Harris said, when it comes to sizes.

Other priorities included demolition and two-story rebuild at the north end classrooms at PCHS, a new secured front entrance and renovations in other high-need areas.

Early childhood is currently in the district office, but with the proposed changes there would be a south satellite location at Barry, while a north location would be moved into a school setting at Siegrist Elementary.

Northland Career Center would have improvements to two programs that need upgrades — culinary and welding. There are currently seven school districts that send students to NCC.

The final priority is district-wide improvements that includes technology, safety and security, as well as updating other furniture and equipment.

Harris also shared with the board 165 different responses to the possible changes, with a grading system from 1 to 5, with five being the best.

“It is mixed and I’d say there is lukewarm support,” Harris said. “That means we have work to do and continue to share information and get feedback and answer some questions that came back.”

Among the comments from the online responses was why not a second high school and if not now, when? Another was why the current K-5 and 6-8 makeup for grades?

There will be more meetings upcoming where those questions will be discussed.