Our Opinion: Crafting an education plan amid criticism

Another announcement regarding the future of the Jefferson City Public Schools has triggered controversy.

Two higher education institutions have agreed to purchase the public high school and other facilities, if the local school district wins approval for its plan to build a new high school.

Specifically, Lincoln University will pay $8.4 million for the high school at 609 Union St., Simonsen Ninth Grade Center at 501 E. Miller St. and Adkins Stadium. Linn State Technical College will pay $1.71 million for Nichols Career Center.

The sales are contingent on voter approval of the school district’s intent to build a new high school, designed to utilize the academy concept. The ballot issue and election date have not been finalized.

Monday’s announcement marks the fourth significant step in the district’s efforts to respond to anticipated increased enrollment at an already-crowded high school.

Previous steps included: a decision to adopt the academy concept; pursuit of a single, new public high school; and purchase of a site at Mission Drive and Missouri 179.

Each announcement not only has ignited, but compounded, dissent.

For example, reaction to the academy concept largely was limited to the pros and cons of that educational approach.

Reaction to the latest announcement, however, has revived debate about each step along the way, including: the drawbacks of academies; the need for two public high schools; the purchase plan being premature; and public anger phrased in one website response as people being “sick of the same old families controlling everything ...”

These reactions are not unexpected. At their best, they are meant to be constructive.

District Superintendent Brian Mitchell acknowledged the debate when he said: “We’re very respectful of the differing opinion out there.”

Ultimately, the school board, educators, patrons and students share a common goal to provide the best possible education.

The goal, however, is elusive. The quest continues as people share their ideas and experiences about what works.

The Jefferson City Public School District has worked diligently to gather and synthesize relevant information.

And they have created a plan to adopt the academy concept at a new, single public high school on the city’s west side.

“The only thing we can do is share what the plan is, and why we think it’s a good plan for our community,” Mitchell said.

Communicating the merits of the plan is the task for the district. Patrons, however, will have the last word when they go to the polls.

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