816 North

NKC district mulls expansion possibilities

When it comes to managing growth, the North Kansas City School District is thinking outside the box.

Board of Education members are beginning to think about what a new school in the district could look like and are considering some new options to address overcrowding concerns. The board last week heard three options ranging from building another traditional middle school to building one facility to serve both middle and elementary school students.

The North Kansas City School district currently serves 18,683 students, but is expected to grow to 20,084 students by the 2015-2016 school year, according to district projections.

Projected enrollment increases over the next five years are expected to cause overcrowding concerns at all five middle schools and also to create capacity issues at seven of the district’s elementary schools.

The first option presented to the board last week by architect Kirk Horner of Hollis and Miller Architects was to build a new, 900-student middle school, followed by a 750-student elementary school in phase two.

The second option suggested building a new school that would initially serve kindergarteners through eighth-graders to address overcrowding concerns at both the elementary and middle school level. In the second phase of this plan, the building would be converted into a middle school and the district would also build a new 750-student elementary school.

The final option presented last week was building a school designed to house both elementary and middle school students. Under this plan, the district would initially build a new school that could accommodate 300 elementary school students and 600 middle school students. As the district grows, it could expand the building to serve 750 elementary students and 900 middle school students. Middle and elementary school students would share common areas such as the cafeteria, but each group of students would have its own wings of the building.

Horner said Joplin schools recently adopted this conjoined school model, which he said can offer benefits such as shared resources, more student collaboration, and lower costs by operating one building instead of two.

Last week, North Kansas City School District officials also said the conjoined building concept could have academic benefits for their district. Superintendent Todd White said having elementary and middle school teachers in the same building could help the district better meet the needs of each student and would eliminate a transition period as students move from fifth to sixth grade.

“Anytime you can eliminate a transition, that’s a good thing,” he said.

After the presentation, board member Terry Ward said that although he liked the idea of building one school to solve two needs, he wondered whether there would be any challenges to having only one school in the district that operated as a facility for kindergarteners through eighth-graders. He also asked whether the district would be able to find a location that would be the best placement for a middle school based on the growth needs of the district and also the best placement for an elementary school.

Board member Dixie Youngers said she would like additional information about the logistics of a conjoined school and questioned whether kindergartners would be riding the same buses as the eighth grade students.

The district plans to return to the board with additional information about the options later. Last week’s discussion is part of a year-long process to develop a bond issue package. The district plans to hold a bond election in April 2014, but final decisions about what to include in the bond package won’t be determined until fall.

Before discussing the building options, board members also heard information about the expected growth in the northern part of the district from Kyle Elliott of the Kansas City Planning and Development department.

Elliott gave board members an update on the first and second creek watershed areas, both north of Missouri 152, and said the sanitary sewers in both areas were set to be complete in 2014.

“About 12,000 acres are going to come into potential for development,” he said.

Although the development will take time, once it is fully built out Elliott said it could bring 6,000 to 12,000 additional people into the district boundary lines. He estimated the district could see about 1,400 additional students as a result of the new development in the area.