Long range committee looks at trio of options for future of JCHS

Like sculptors molding a slab of clay, members of the Long Range Planning Committee on Thursday fleshed out a few of the details they’d like to see in a plan to address problems with overcrowded and aging facilities for students in grades 9-12.

Earlier this spring, a subcommittee of the group settled upon three various plans for reusing or replacing the current 609 Union Street high school campus, Nichols Career Center and Simonsen 9th Grade Center.

The proposals — which all call for educating between 3,000 and 3,600 students — include:

• Option A: Renovating and expanding the existing high school campus.

• Option B: Renovating the existing high school and building a new high school.

• Option C: Building two separate, new high schools.

Subcommittee member Rod Burnett came to Thursday’s meeting with a PowerPoint presentation of possibilities to further explain each idea. He asked the rest of the committee members to add enough detail so that the document could be handed over to an architecture firm for further work.

“If we can refine this, we will have a product to turn over to ACI Boland,” Burnett suggested.

One problem the district faces is that if all Jefferson City high school students were combined on one campus, it probably would be the largest high school in the state. According to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Jefferson City had about 2,618 students enrolled in September.

Michael Kautz, an architect with ACI Boland, offered a few parameters to guide the subcommittee’s conversation. He noted that buildings can be expanded with extra classrooms, but the “core” facilities — the hallways, cafeterias, gymnasiums, common areas — must be sized appropriately to accommodate that growth.

Burnett said that Option A — renovating and expanding the existing campus — might turn out to be the most affordable option, but one of the least popular.

“At what point is too many students, too many?” he asked.

Former Superintendent Chris Straub asked Kautz if it would be possible to expand at the 609 Union St. campus.

“It would be extremely difficult,” Kautz replied, noting that a lack of parking spaces, moving Nichols Career Center and tearing down Thorpe Gordon Elementary School all pose obstacles.

A few members of the subcommittee also guessed that Option C — building two separate, new high schools — might prove to be too expensive.

Burnett surmised that Option B — renovating the existing high school and building a new one — is where the “rubber will meet the road.”

With Option B, the group discussed allowing the two buildings to vary in size. But they decided to direct the architect to design two buildings that would house equal numbers of students.

Although the group drafted a list of characteristics they’d like to see in Option A and C, they left the details of Option B to the architects to fill in.

Their list included the typical elements found in a traditional high school: gymnasiums, a library, parking, storage space, science labs, a nurse’s office, more room for special education, administrative offices, music and band rooms, visual arts studios, etc.

They did set one goal: they’d like to see every full-time teacher have his or her own classroom.

And, if the current high school is reused, they want an adequate number of restrooms to serve the big gymnasium during public events.

Although the committees plans called for adequate gymnasium space and locker rooms, no one in the room advocated for the construction of a new auditorium as part of any project.

Straub noted that the current Miller Performing Arts Center, which seats about 900 people, is “very functional” for performances.

“It seems extravagant to build another on campus,” Straub said.

They also did not directly address the need for more space for votech education.

“Don’t we want to expand the (votech) program? We have more students interested than space available,” Pam Murray said.

As the conversation drew to a close, Kautz shared information about two other high schools his firm had built. He thought he had enough information to be able to calculate some prices to go with the committee’s ideas. The group plans to meet again on May. 29.

“We’ll take this information and compare it to projects we’ve done,” he said. “We’ll have information by that meeting.”

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