Rising Star Elementary might have ended up unexpectedly closing for good a little early.
A sewage system issue forced Platte County R-3 School District officials to close the building in the late morning of Tuesday, May 3. All students were relocated to Siegrist Elementary for the remainder of the school day with some forced to finish up lunch there.
City officials were on site trying to help diagnose the problem, but with only 10 school days remaining, the building might not be able to re-open this year.
“One thing I know about school buildings,” Platte County superintendent Dr. Mike Reik said, “is there has to be a place for a large amount of people to take care of themselves when nature calls and right now we don’t have the ability to do that at Rising Star.”
Ironically, the district previously planned to discontinue Rising Star as an attendance center after this school year. Due to the current emergency situation, officials also announced “A Fond Farewell to Rising Star” event scheduled for Thursday, May 5 will be indefinitely postponed.
Classes will not be able to resume at Rising Star this week, and the district was in the process of adjusting to accommodate the relocation of kindergarten students.
Reik said the district will utilize large classroom spaces and outdoor areas to absorb the unexpected move. Fortunately, Rising Star’s field day was scheduled for Friday, May 6, and students already had a field trip planned for Monday, May 9.
An additional field trip opportunity for Tuesday is being explored, as well.
“The kids for all intents and purposes relocating to Siegrist, but we are hoping to have outdoor activities to be as flexible as possible,” Reik said.
While the extent of the problem continued to be examined Tuesday afternoon, Reik said a main line failure remained a possibility. No estimate on cost or time needed to fix the problem was immediately available.
Reik praised the efforts of all staff involved with helping to clean up and mitigate the problem after sewage backed up into the school. The bathrooms remain functional in low volume usage, but the condition of outdated piping in the sewage system remains a concern.
Depending on the diagnosis, the district might have to make repairs, or with the building set go out of commission and selling the property the most likely outcome, future owners could be left to decide what to do based on future usage for the land.
“We are hoping we are pleasantly surprised, but we are preparing for worst-case scenarios,” Reik said.
The district remains in the process of finishing construction on Compass Elementary, which along with Siegrist Elementary, will be a K-5 facility in Platte City.
The work is part of a $29 million capital improvement project funded through a tax levy passed in April of 2015. Part of the reasoning behind the new building centered around not sinking money into an aging facility like Rising Star, which opened as a K-6 facility back in 1954.
The community, former and current staff members, students, and alumni were invited to attend the planned outdoor farewell to reminisce on the building’s role in Platte County education during the past 60-plus years. Instead, the event might be scrapped due to the current plumbing issue.
The grades served at Rising Star Elementary continued to dwindle over its 60-plus years in the ever-growing district. By 1997, only first grade and kindergarten were at Platte City Elementary with its name changed to Rising Star, and five years later, first grade was moved out as well.