Sixth elementary ‘only logical solution’ to address student growth, board told

Construction of new elementary school ‘right thing to do,’ panel member says

By Mike Anthony

Construction of a sixth elementary school “is the only logical solution” to address Lindbergh Schools’ continuing enrollment surge.

That’s what a member of the District Growth Committee told the Board of Education last week when presenting the panel’s recommendation that a new elementary school be built on the nearly 10-acre Dressel School site at 10255 Musick Road.

Committee member Joe Marting said, “… This is the right thing to do. This is the best thing to do. This is the only logical solution to addressing our continuing enrollment growth …”

To address the district’s increasing enrollment, the Board of Education voted in June to establish the District Growth Committee. The panel, comprised of district staff, parents and business representatives, arrived at its recommendation after meeting twice — in October and November.

The committee was chaired by Chief Financial Officer Charles Triplett and co-chaired by Brian McKenney, assistant superintendent for human resources, and Karl Guyer, executive director of planning and development.

Before committee representatives presented the panel’s recommendation Jan. 14, Triplett said, “The group was very thorough and conscientious, taking a lot of information about the district and our recent efforts to address growth, the current state of the district, as well as the possibility for handling continued student growth. They asked great questions and made a lot of really good comments as well …”

Marting and three other members of the District Growth Committee — Steve Cox, David Reinhardt and David Dooling — presented the panel’s recommendation to the school board.

Dooling said, “… The District Growth Committee evaluated eight different options to deal with this long-term growth in our elementary schools, and in doing so had three questions driving our deliberations: What’s best for the kids? What’s best for the community? And what’s best for the staff that serve our kids?

“In short, how do we keep Lindbergh Lindbergh? How do we keep our elementary schools neighborhood schools where people are connected to the schools and to each other in the community?”

Committee members considered eight options to address enrollment growth, Dooling said.

“… Briefly, these eight options fall into three main categories: reorganization of existing facilities, using temporary facilities and new construction,” he said. “In reality, reorganizing existing facilities is just a euphemism for cramming more kids into the same space. It’s not good for achievement, it’s been shown over and over. Lower academic achievement leads to lower scores. Obviously, that’s not good for the kids. Lower scores lead to lower ranks. That leads to lower property values. That’s not good for the community.

“And clearly, more and more kids with the same number of teachers is not good for the staff, either.”

As for temporary facilities, Dooling said committee members couldn’t get past safety and security concerns for students who would use those structures.

“Turning to new construction, the majority of the elementary schools’ sites don’t have enough space to build further out. Plus, increasing the size of our elementary schools really puts in danger the neighborhood feel, that ability for people to be connected to the schools, for the students and parents and the community to be connected to the school and each other.

“That brings us to our final option that we considered: opening a sixth elementary school on the Dressel property. This option met all of our criteria. It’s best for the kids. It’s best for the community and it’s best for our staff …”

Marting, who recently retired as pastor of Southminster Presbyterian Church, told the board he has lived in the community for 31 years. He said while all four of his children are Lindbergh graduates, “I currently have no children and no grandchildren enrolled in the district.

“During these past 31 years, my experience for the most part participating in many municipal, ecclesiastical and educational meetings and committees and task forces, my observation is that the question most often asked was this: ‘What’s the least we can do?’ What can we get by with? What’s the quick fix?’

“But in recent years, I’ve observed a paradigm shift — a paradigm shift, which in my opinion, was initiated by the Lindbergh Board of Education,” Marting said. “And now the question most often asked … is this: ‘What’s the very best we can do for our children? What’s the very best we can do for our community?’ And the results of this paradigm shift are amazing …”

He cited a number of district accomplishments, including Lindbergh Schools being ranked No. 1 in academic achievement among all K-12 districts in Missouri for the fourth consecutive year and being recognized by U.S. News and World Report and Newsweek magazines.

“… These accolades and recognitions have helped one of our municipalities, the city of Crestwood, to be recently named the very best place in Missouri to raise kids,” Marting said. “… This commitment to excellence in education by asking the question: ‘What’s best for our kids? What’s best for our community?’ has appreciably benefited the entire community. Lindbergh’s become a destination district for young families. We’ve experienced increased property values, and our quality of life has been enhanced.

“Lindbergh Schools has become a bright, shining light in our community, a source of pride for all of us of all ages, from our young citizens … to retired folk like myself, and therefore, it’s with great humility — and yet with a burning passion for excellence in education — that we, the men and women of the District Growth Committee, strongly recommend the creation of an additional elementary school on the current Dressel campus. This is the right thing to do. This is the best thing to do. This is the only logical solution to addressing our continuing enrollment growth.”

Marting concluded, “Together, let’s continue to unfurl the banner of excellence in education with the creation of an additional elementary school — our first elementary school in 50 years, our first in over half a century. It’s what’s best for our kids. It’s what’s best for our community. It’s the least we can do, and on behalf of our committee, I thank you for your consideration of our recommendation tonight.”