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It’s back to school
time in Platte County

by PJ Rooks
Landmark reporter

Next week heralds the start of another school year for Platte County kids, so to help get past the first-day jitters, here's The Landmark's rundown of some of what students and parents can expect at each district.

Superintendent Mike Reik said that there will be several new teachers in the R-3 district this year, most of them replacing others who have retired or resigned. Also, Jen McClure will replace Tolan Singer as principal at Siegrist. Singer will be moving into the position of coordinator of student services and principal at Rising Star.

The district will also roll out its new, altered bell schedule this year. Expected to help save money on busing costs, the new start times are as follows: Rising Star, Siegrist, Pathfinder and Paxton schools, 8:40 a.m., Barry and the high school, 7:30 a.m. and the middle school, 7:40 a.m.

The new year will kick off with a full day on Tuesday, Aug. 17 and Reik said he is looking forward to seeing all the students return.

"After having a couple of months without kids, it's always helpful to have kids come back and validate why you work so hard," said Reik. "It's just a really exciting time of year.”


Park Hill students will start the semester with a full day on August 17. The high schools will start at 7:25 a.m., Congress and Lakeview middle schools at 7:35, Plaza Middle School at 7:45, and the elementary schools will start at 8:45.

Over the summer, the district completed construction on its Early Childhood Education Center, said Park Hill's director of communication services Nicole Kirby, and staff there is now working on contacting parents to get kids off the waiting list and into the program.

Kirby said that although the district hired fewer new teachers this year than usual due to budgetary restrictions, there are still several new faces. At Prairie Point Elementary, new principal Jay Niceswanger will fill the gap left by Jennifer Corum as she moves into her own new position replacing the newly retired Janet Neese as the district's director of curriculum. Stephanie Amaya will replace Tom Pfannenstiel (also retired) as the site administrator at Park Hill Day School. Additionally, Jeanna Chambers has retired as assistant superintendent of academic services and has been replaced by Jeff Klein. Klein's own former role as director of research, evaluation and assessment will be filled by Mike Kimbrel. Finally, assistant superintendent for school improvement Mark Miles will now serve as the district's deputy superintendent.

Kirby said that the district is growing at a “nice, slow and steady” rate of about one to two percent per year, giving administrators time to plan expansions as they are needed.

At the North Platte district, Superintendent Jeff Sumy said he expects about the same enrollment this year as last. Forty five seniors graduated in the spring, he said, and although he said he won't be absolutely certain until the first day, it looks like 45 new kindergarteners will enter the district.

The school year will start for North Platte students on Tuesday, Aug. 17. The junior high and high schools will start at 8:10 a.m., followed by the elementary school at 8:15 and the intermediate school at 8:20.

Sumy said that the district has not reduced any programs that are education based although it has been necessary to reduce some of the sub-varsity coaching positions. These positions, explained Sumy, were held by non-faculty members who were not employed by the district on a regular basis.

The district has added one new faculty member, science teacher Shelly Meyer, to its high school.

A recent winner of the Missouri School Board Association's What Parents Want award, Sumy said that one of his main goals for the year will be to continue the pursuit of an A+ designation from the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Sumy said that the district is in its third year of the program the “designation year”and that while he'd been hoping for a designation review in the fall, DESE staff reductions may lead to a longer wait. Because receiving A+ status would open new avenues of grant money and tuition reductions for seniors going on to college, Sumy said he is very hopeful that the district can complete the process this year.

Sumy also said that he is very proud of a recent article in The Kansas City Star which showed North Platte as one of just a handful of Kansas City school districts that were able to meet adequate yearly progress standards. AYP is a measure of academic achievement closely tied with the No Child Left Behind Act.

"Of the 32 districts in Cass, Clay, Jackson and Platte counties, only four made AYP: Strasburg, East Lynne, Missouri City and North Platte. All are small, with few subgroups.

Among schools, including charter schools, 106 made AYP; 227 did not," reads the July 29 article in The Star by Joe Robertson.

"There's a lot of discussion about (adequate yearly progress) being unattainable," said Sumy. "My only knock to that is we focus on that. That is a benchmark to us and we did meet (it) and we think that's a great thing."


For West Platte kids, the school year will start at 8 a.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 18 and will dismiss early at 1:15. District superintendent Kyle Stephenson said kids will go through the routine and gets books and syllabi on the first day then will come back for a full day for the rest of the week.

“This is a neat time of year,” said Stephenson. “It's all new and you get to start all over.”

Speaking of new, West Platte has several construction and remodeling projects in the works for the 2010/2011 school year.

For starters, returning students will be christening the district's $2.2 million, centrally-located kitchen this year. The new kitchen will serve all three schools through the two current cafeterias but Stephenson said that he is hopeful that at some point in the future, the district will be able to add a new high school cafeteria beside the new kitchen.

Construction plans in the West Platte district this year also include the addition of a 400-seat fine arts theater and a new gym. Awaiting a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the new gym will also serve as a storm shelter that students and community members can use during violent weather. The $4.2 million theater will replace the old gym.

Other upcoming projects for West Platte might include $1.5 million in renovations to the industrial arts shop, new lockers and a new roof.

Stephenson also said he is pleased to welcome new music teacher, Bess Morin, and that he expects enrollment for the 2010/2011 school year to be down slightly compared with last year with an estimated 575 students.