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To Move Sixth Graders To Middle Schools, Lee's Summit Must Again Redraw Boundaries

A man wears a hard hat and a mask at a construction site. He is holding up a tablet displaying renderings for a new middle school building.
Rebekah Hange
Lee's Summit R-7 School District
A fourth middle school is being built at SE Bailey Road and Country Lane in Lee's Summit. The Lee's Summit R-7 School Board will consider a name for the building later this month as the district redraw boundaries.

Previous boundary changes have been contentious in the suburban school district, but Lee's Summit has been renovating old buildings to make facilities more equitable across the district.

A new middle school is rising in southeastern Lee’s Summit, and the district wants parent input in how to redraw school boundaries.

“We’re going to have four middle school buildings starting in the 2022-23 school year, and we will need to decide how to divide our middle schoolers into those four buildings,” said Katy Bergen, spokeswoman for the district. “It’s supporting a big transition to the sixth to eighth grade middle school model.”

Right now, sixth graders in Lee’s Summit stay in elementary school, but starting in 2022, they’ll head to middle school with seventh and eighth graders. The move will reduce overcrowding at elementary schools and get Lee’s Summit’s middle school configuration in line with other districts.

Lori Doran can see it from both sides. She has two daughters: 12-year-old Lucy, who’s headed to Pleasant Lea Middle School next year as a seventh grader, and 9-year-old Charlotte, a rising fifth grader with just one year left at Cedar Creek Elementary.

“Where Lucy’s birthday is, she’ll actually turn 13 shortly after the school year starts,” Doran said. “So to me, she already feels like a middle schooler, and she felt like a middle schooler all through sixth grade.”

Doran’s other daughter, Charlotte, is young for her grade. She won’t be 10 until later this month. Because she’s part of the first class of sixth graders transitioning to middle school, she’ll only be 11 when she starts.

“So having her starting middle school as a sixth grader doesn’t feel quite as comfortable to me,” Doran said.

Still, Doran said this is a good problem for Lee’s Summit to have.

“When you move into such a robust, growing area, you just have to expect some of these things to happen,” she said.

Big changes

When Lindsey Diehl and her husband bought their house in Lee’s Summit, they thought their kids would attend Summit Lakes Middle School. But before any of their four kids entered middle school, they were rezoned to Pleasant Lea.

Now Diehl’s oldest child, Madelyn, is excited to be entering seventh grade.

“She might be separated from some of her best friends potentially,” Diehl said. “However, she understands that this is going to be a transition to a much larger school, so she might not have seen them at school anyway.”

Diehl doesn’t think Madelyn will have to change schools between seventh and eighth grade. This time, none of the proposed middle school boundaries impact them. But Diehl said it would be OK if they had.

“We have four kids. We deal with craziness and changes and rolling with the punches all the time. We try to teach them to be resilient and always find what can be good about a change if they can,” she said. “It’s OK to be sad if it doesn’t go the way we want, but we can stay focused.”

A man and a woman wearing masks and hard hats stand in the middle of a construction site. There is a steel-framed structure without a roof.
Rebekah Hange
Lee's Summit R-7 School District
The new middle school will open for the 2022-23 school year as Lee's Summit transitions sixth graders out of elementary schools.

In the past, boundary changes in Lee’s Summit have been more contentious. In 2018, when the district changed the feeder pattern for the district’s three high schools, some families who’d bought houses in new neighborhoods in southwest Lee’s Summit weren’t happy with the rezoning. They didn’t want their kids going to older schools in the district.

But last spring, there was overwhelming support for a $224 million bond for building repairs and new construction. There have been extensive renovations at Lee’s Summit High School to bring facilities in line with the other two high schools.

Bergen emphasized that elementary and high school boundaries aren’t changing. The district is looking at middle school boundaries only. Parents can give their feedback at the Missouri Innovation Campus this week at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, June 7 and Tuesday, June 8.

Plans will be finalized in October. No one will be grandfathered in, which means some seventh graders will have to move for eighth grade. Parents can apply for transfers, which will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Elle Moxley covered education for KCUR.
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