Our Opinion: Keep focus on key issues for secondary education

The future of secondary education in the local public school district is a valuable, if belated, discussion.

Members of Jefferson City’s school board have laid the groundwork for construction of a single, new high school. The board has adopted the academy concept, endorsed the idea of a replacement high school, purchased a site on Mission Drive at Missouri 179 and agreed to sell the existing high school and other facilities.

Separately, but simultaneously, a group of patrons who favor operating two public high schools — a new one as well as the existing one — has gained momentum.

Members of the group “Citizens for 2 Public High Schools” addressed the board at its meeting Monday night. Also speaking were patrons who support the single, new facility.

Both sides advance persuasive arguments. And both have been known to offer lame supporting evidence.

Let’s examine both.

The strongest argument for operating two high schools is student-centered, but perhaps too idealistic.

Two high schools would divide what would be the largest high school population in the state into two separate facilities, which also would double a number of student opportunities.

But operational costs are greater for two facilities, and a patron survey has indicated cost and support are inversely proportional — as projected costs increase, support diminishes.

Proponents of two facilities weaken their argument with hyperbole, as evidenced in these statements: “The public feels we are not being heard” and “Everyone is against one giant high school.” Such statements are neither true nor fair.

The strongest case for a single public high school is grounded in economics and reality.

Supporters are attempting to promote what they believe is the best attainable plan for educational improvement.

They believe the academy concept will mitigate over-crowding by dividing the student population among seven academies.

A tangential argument focuses on fears of inequity between old and new schools. Such concerns are debunked by the public elementary schools, where no link exists between the varied ages of the buildings and educational excellence.

We welcome and encourage discussion about the school district’s future. Avoiding exaggerations and false assumptions will help promote informed, instructive discussion.

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