The Platte County R-3 School District continues to grow slowly as the overall numbers of students are up by 80 students compared to the 2017-18 school year.
Dr. Michael Reik discussed the enrollment during the September board of education meeting and later talked with The Citizen about what the numbers mean for this year and long term.
Overall, the R-3 district sits at 4,178 students, up from the projected total of 4,152, which is done using a scientific formula that takes many factors into account, such as birth rates, building permits, historic trends and employment numbers.
“Every year for the last 20 years, we had a small class graduate and a big class come in,” Reik said. “That right there, without any more moving in, keeps us growing. Now we are close to pushing out the last two small classes, below 300, and now we are waiting on the bubble class in kindergarten that will be 400.”
Reik has been with the district for 18 years and has been superintendent since the 2009-2010 school year. He saw a lot of growth in the early portion of his tenure, ranging from five to seven percent yearly, but after the recession and the housing market crash, there has been a steady annual increase between one and three percent. This year is a little more than two percent.
In the secondary level, the growth was rather minimal. Platte City Middle School was up five students to 703, while Barry School had a nine student increase in grades sixth through eighth. Barry saw a growth of 18 students in fifth grade.
At the high school, Platte County had only five more students and sat at 1,217, slightly above the projected 1,210.
The largest overall jumps occurred in the lower levels.
Pathfinder Elementary had growth in three levels – kindergarten through third grade – ranging from eight to 12 new students. The only drop was in the fourth grade, a decrease of 19 students.
Compass Elementary had the largest single gain of any school in the district in third grade, with a 24-student increase. Other gains were 18 in fifth grade, six in kindergarten and four in fourth grade.
The only bump in numbers at Siegrist Elementary was in kindergarten (19) and third grade (15), while seeing double-digit losses in fourth and fifth grades, both 11 students lower.
Reik noted the district is looking to correct the middle school issues and possibly turn Barry School into an elementary school to help the numbers at the lower levels. That was part of a long-term plan discussed at a board meeting earlier this year.
Official enrollment numbers were turned into the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education on the last Wednesday in September.
Reik said the district is looking at the growth in the southern portion of the district with several housing developments near Green Hills Road coming along, while the new Windmill Creek expansion in the eastern part of Platte City could substantially grow numbers in the northern portion.
Reik also touched on the possibility of a second high school, something that many in the southern area of the district want. With 80 acres donated by MD Management at the intersection of Highway 152 and Platte Purchase Drive, it is feasible from a size standpoint.
For now, the problem is not having enough kids in the high school to warrant a split, Reik said. He said when the numbers in the high school exceed 1,500 and close in on 1,700, a talk will be warranted. Even projections out to the 2021-22 school year show an estimated 1,300 students.
“The speculation is it will happen at some point,” Reik said. “They all want a high school down there right now, but the problem is we don’t have enough population. We have about 400 kids out of the 1,200 kids that are down there. If you build it, they will come isn’t how it works. You got to have them come so you will build. That is the worst thing you could do as a public tax entity, is building a facility and end up not needing it.”
He mentioned when Liberty split nearly a decade ago and opened Liberty North, the high school was one of the largest in the state with more than 2,500 students. The other local split was Staley, which opened in 2008-2009 and took some students from Oak Park in the North Kansas City School District. Park Hill split into two high schools nearly 20 years ago.
Reik’s concerns deal with the functionality of the current high school, which has hallways designed for a Class 2- or 3-sized school. The Pirates also have the smallest gymnasium in the Suburban Conference and that will have to be addressed at some point.
“We need to do improvements at Platte County High School, but also provide spaces that are conducive to today’s instructions and methodology,” Reik said. “Facilities matter when it comes to instructional learning, but also providing a facility that our parents expect. You can have two buildings side-by-side. One can be very attractive and the other one not so much, but can compete in terms of effectiveness inside. The parents may not know a difference and not many parents go beyond the front desk. It does matter and there is something to be said about curb appeal, but what goes on inside the buildings matters more. We are trying to foster more collaboration and more project-based learning. Having kids sitting in rows in a small spaces is not ideal. It isn’t sitting in a desk taking notes, it is problem-solving type things.
“I feel we have good, modern learning spaces, but we need to address issues at Platte County High School. That is our high school no matter where you are in wanting a second high school. From now until that happens, we have only one and we need to make sure we are taking a care of that one.”
Geoff Heckman, a Platte County High School counselor, was presented with a professional development scholarship awarded to the past president of the Missouri School Counselor Association. Heckman’s distinguished achievements include being named as the 2016 Greater Kansas City Secondary School Counselor of the Year, 2017 MSCA Secondary School Counselor of the Year and School Counselor of the Year (overall), 2017/2018 President of MSCA, and 2018 American School Counselor Association (ASCA) National School Counselor of the Year Finalist.
The month’s SCHIVIR Me Timber award winner was Matthew LaPointe, physical education teacher at Pathfinder Elementary.
A contract was approved with IDEMIA Identity and Security for background checks. It is estimated there would be 40 background checks per month.
Parent teacher conferences will be held Oct. 23 and 25.
The fall musical The Drowsy Chaperone will be presented at 7 p.m. Nov. 8-10 at Wilson Auditorium. Tickets cost $7.
The next board meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 18.