Our Opinion: The elephant in the public school district

The "elephant in the room" soon will be addressed in district-wide discussions by patrons of the Jefferson City Public Schools.

A second public high school is the proverbial elephant in the idiomatic expression that refers to an obvious concern no one wants to address.

As an interesting aside, the Oxford English Dictionary attributes the first recorded use of the phrase to the topic of education. According to the Wikipedia website, the dictionary cites a New York Times story from June 20, 1959, that reads, "Financing schools has become a problem about equal to having an elephant in the living room. It's so big you just can't ignore it."

Informal conversation about a second public high school has existed for some time.

Superintendent Brian Mitchell told board members Monday he intends to institute more formal discussions beginning this spring.

To that end, he formed a task force last year of about 40 members to begin studying options for improving education from 6th grade through high school, including adding a second high school.

Mitchell has asked the committee for three options, including: keeping the existing single high school system; building and maintaining a second high school; and a hybrid that combines both.

The task force has been asked to draft those three models by winter break so public meetings can begin in the spring. The superintendent envisions community forums that will be similar to those held about two decades ago to consider building the two middle schools opened in 1993.

The elephant within the elephant may be the price tag. Mitchell said all options likely will involve seeking voter approval of a bond issue and permanent tax increase.

The existing high school facility is not overcrowded at this time, according to David Luther, director of school-community relations. The building, designed in 1964 for 2,400 students, now has 1,830 students. Based on large kindergarten classes, however, projections indicate future population increases.

We commend the district for publicly acknowledging the elephant.

This beast will prove difficult to tame, which is why a serious, community-wide exchange of ideas and discussion is needed.

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