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Our Opinion: Site acquisition a major step

News Tribune editorial

The Jefferson City School District has taken another major step in announcing a site on the west side where it intends to build a new high school.

District officials said Monday they have purchased 118 acres east of Missouri 179 and north of Mission Drive, where a new St. Mary’s Health Center is being constructed to the south. The district paid about $3.1 million for multiple parcels owned by three entities: Heimericks Farm Limited Partnership, Tribeca Investment Group LLC and Jefferson Bank.

Previous significant steps include:

• A commitment to the academy concept, designed to subdivide the large student population by areas of academic interest. The academy model includes seven categories — for example, arts and communication or industrial and engineering technology.

• A commitment to build a new high school, as an alternative to construction of a second public high school or renovation of the existing facility.

Following the announcement of the site purchase, district officials revealed plans for the replacement high school. Also unveiled was a schematic drawing of a concept for the campus.

A dilemma faced by school district officials is each step risks alienating patrons who will decide the fate of the project when asked to approve financing.

Some patrons have reservations about the merits of the academy concept. They fear students will not receive the life-long benefits of a broad-based, liberal arts education. Another worry is academies tend to pigeon-hole or categorize students too early.

Other patrons are disappointed by plans to pursue construction of a new high school. They may favor renovation of the existing facility as a more costeffective alternative. Or, they may favor construction of second public high school as the answer to what district officials concede will be an increasing number of students.

In addition, some patrons will find fault with Monday’s announcements. The may deem the purchase to be premature, the price too steep or the west side location inconvenient or objectionable.

On the flip side, some district patrons will be delighted and supportive of the steps taken so far to replace the existing high school. They may contend naysayers will latch on to any excuse to withhold support.

Ultimately, a major step will be convincing enough district patrons the proposal serves the future of education for students in the Jefferson City School District.

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