District Plans Ahead To Keep Up With Population Boom

Nearly 2,000 New Students Enroll Annually

Reagan Schulz, Reporter

     In the last two school years, the student population in the North Kansas City School District has grown rapidly, and to keep up with that growth, plans and projects are on the way.  After averaging about 200 new students annually for years, the district is now welcoming about 2,000 new students each year.

     “We are in a growing community,” principal Larry Smith, Ed.D., said. “Staley has seen a population increase each year for its 14 school years, and that’s really exciting to be at a school and in a community that continues to grow, that continues to have families to choose our school where they would like to send their students.” 

     According to the district profile, in the 2018-2019 school year, the district had 19,717 students enrolled. The following school year, the student population increased by about 2,000, bringing the 2019-2020 student population to 21,179. The student population went from an increase of about 200 per year for 13 years to an increase of about 2,000 per year. 

     With district officials working to predict future student population increases, they are working to make space for them all. The district has projects in the works, including the new Early Education Center, six renovations and additions, two new facilities, five new athletic spaces and six new playgrounds. 

      “I think that our school district and our community has done an amazing job at keeping up with the growth and supporting our school district,” Smith said.

We are one of the most diverse districts in the state of Missouri, and I think that is attractive to a lot of younger families with kids.

— Executive Director of Facilities Jeff Vandel

      District residents do recognize some of the factors that go into the decision making for new construction and updates. 

     “We are an awesome district,” executive director of facilities Jeff Vandel said. “I think we are one of the most diverse districts in the state of Missouri, and I think that is attractive to a lot of younger families with kids.”

     Vandel also said some of the district’s policies are appealing to new residents.

“I think North Kansas City’s district is a very progressive district, and people like that and want to be a part of that,” Vandel said.

     One military family moved to the area so their children could finish out their school careers in a district of their choice. 

     “They wanted a good school district for me and my brother to go to for the rest of high school,” senior Emma Thom said about her parents. Her family moved to the area two school years ago from Leavenworth, Kan. 

     Another new student from a military family enrolled this school year. 

     “I noticed the difference between how the staff taught and how the school ran because I came from a school filled with drugs, and they didn’t really care about their students as much as this school does,” senior Alyssa Smith said. “This school does care a lot about the students and the community as a whole.”

     There are plans underway for another new school near Hodge Park after the district purchased land in Hodge Park from the city. 

     ”There is a plan to put some type of school there,” Vandel said. “But we don’t know what that looks like yet. It is very likely the city would put a community center next to it.”

    With the continued need for growth, the district asks the community to vote to approve new funds for the facilities. 

     ”Usually we’ll have to pass a bond,” Vandel said. “And voters choose if we want to pass this bond and what those dollars would actually buy: build schools, build additions, renovate schools.” 

   He said the district is working with architects and contractors in hopes to get schools renovated and built ahead of the rise in numbers. 

 “One thing that is going to be interesting to watch how it unfolds are some of the Afghani refugees,” Vandel said. “A lot of them are being placed in this area, and we could see a big surge in student population just from Afghani refugees.”