JC Schools begin new look at the future

New committee starts nine-month effort at retreat

What will Jefferson City’s Public Schools look like in 20 years? What will the community want them to be like two decades from now?

Those are two of the questions facing a new committee that began working Saturday on long-range facilities planning for the district.

“Five years ago we put together a committee to look at secondary space needs,” Superintendent Brian Mitchell told the two dozen people who will study the district’s needs for the next nine months. “When we put that committee together, we were a decade into a flat-to-declining enrollment trend.

“But fast-forward five years, from that first year, we’ve had an increase in enrollment — and this is the fifth year that our kindergarten class has exceeded 700.”

That growth “really changes the dynamics of what we need as a district, looking forward,” Mitchell added. “I believe there is a strong interest and a strong need to map out a 20-year plan.”

Kenny Southwick, who retired in 2010 as the Belton Schools’ superintendent, will work as the Jefferson City committee’s facilitator.

“When we first talked with Dr. Mitchell about this,” Southwick told the committee members, “we looked at a time-frame that is open-ended, so we can look at all the issues and make sure that we get it right.”

Mitchell added: “Our intent is to expand our reach to our community, and really create a master facility plan that our entire community supports — and to understand that the next issue isn’t the last issue.”

Southwick now works with ACI Boland, a school planning and architectural firm which previously worked with Jefferson City’s schools in planning and designing the building changes needed for expanding to full-day kindergarten classes several years ago.

The committee plans to meet once a month, and hold two “town hall” meetings next year to get public input before submitting a final report to the seven-member school board next June.

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