by Ivan Foley
Building projects should be ready by the start of the 2016-17 school year.
That is the word this week from officials at Platte County R-3 School District, after a 43-cent tax levy increase was approved by voters at Tuesday’s election. The measure passed comfortably, garnering 55% approval in the Platte County portion of the district, with 2037 in favor to 1685 opposed.
At Park Hill, a school board election for two open seats featured a positive outcome for the lone incumbent on the ballot, Matt Pepper, who topped all vote-getters with 2260 votes. Also elected was newcomer Karen Holland with 1910. Also running were Lathem Scott with 1604 votes and Jeffrey Kingsley with 1534.
“I appreciate the support of the Park Hill community and look forward to continuing to serve the district. My positive message was well-received by voters,” Pepper told The Landmark.
Combining the 146 yes votes cast in the Clay County portion of the school district, the Platte County R-3 measure actually finished with 56% in favor to 44% opposed.
Mike Reik, superintendent at Platte County R-3, was obviously pleased with the result, telling The Landmark:
"I would like to thank our community for approving this much needed investment in our future. The approved projects will allow us to move closer to realizing our collective vision of ‘building learners of tomorrow.’ Students, parents, staff, and patrons will benefit from the approved projects. We will pause in reflection for a brief moment but must quickly begin the hard work of managing a construction project.”
Voter turnout countywide in Platte County for Tuesday’s school and municipal elections was 15.55 percent. Within the R-3 school district, voter turnout was 29.5 percent.
“District leadership and the board of education will take the necessary steps to begin a competitive bidding process immediately,” states a news release issued by the R-3 central office Wednesday morning.
The successful campaign featured $36,000 raised by Quality Platte County R-3 Schools political action committee. As of this week, the committee had spent around $32,000 of that with companies owned by noted political consultant Jeff Roe.
R-3 says it will use the 43 cent tax levy increase for:
• Repurposing Paxton School (currently serving grades 4-5 in the northern attendance area) to become part of Platte County High School (PCHS) to accommodate student enrollment growth at PCHS.
• Building a new, approximately 700-student, Kindergarten-5th Grade Elementary school to be located in Platte City on property the district currently owns. This would allow for the closure of Rising Star Elementary (currently serving Kindergarten only in the northern attendance area), the repurposing of Paxton School for Platte County High School, and improved grade-spans at the elementary level.
•Expanding Pathfinder Elementary (currently serving grades K-2 in the southern attendance area) by adding 14 classrooms, a multi-purpose room, and additional parking to increase student capacity by approximately 280 students, allowing for improved elementary grade-spans at Pathfinder (moving to grades K-4) and to relieve Barry School overcrowding (moving from grades 3-8 to grades 5-8).
Boundary lines to determine what students will attend the new K-5 elementary will become an immediate topic of conversation.
“This process will be stakeholder driven, transparent to the community, and approved by the board of education. First, the board of education will assemble a task force comprised of willing parents and patrons to steer the process of developing elementary attendance areas. A third-party demographer will then assist the task force in considering logistical issues associated with defining attendance areas such as enrollment balance, socio-economic balance, transportation distance/safety, maintaining neighborhoods and subdivisions, and future growth,” according to a district press release.
The district says then the task force will work with the demographer to develop boundary line scenarios that will be open for public comment.
“Once the public has been provided ample opportunity to provide feedback, the task force will finalize their boundary recommendation for the board of education to consider. All task force meetings and board of education meetings will be advertised in advance and open to the public,” the district says.