At long last, Jefferson City's second public high school got it's name Saturday.
With a little help from students who may one day walk its halls, community leaders broke ground on the new Jefferson City Public Schools high school Saturday morning. To unveil the name, a handful of students performed a card trick that momentarily left everyone waiting in suspense.
With a break in Saturday morning's cold rain, Superintendent Larry Linthacum looked around grinning while thinking about the name: Capital City High School.
"It was kind of an overwhelming vote when they voted," Linthacum said of a public vote to determine the school's name. "It was loud and clear that's what our community wanted as the name."
In November, JCPS opened voting for the name of the new school. Members of the public could help select between the finalists: Capital City High School, Mission High School or Stoneridge High School. Linthacum said the public voted by a ratio of about 2 to 1 for the Capital City High School name.
JCPS officials estimated more than 250 people attended the event late Saturday morning, despite chilly conditions and sometime heavy rain showers. JCPS previously postponed the naming and groundbreaking ceremony set for Feb. 7 because of an ice storm forecasted to hit the area last weekend.
Linthacum said he was happy with the turnout, given the conditions.
"We are a team," he said of the school district and community.
Steve Bruce, president of the Jefferson City Board of Education, said about 1,000 people watched a live stream of the event online. Bruce said he and Linthacum considered postponing the event another week. With showers in the forecast for next Saturday too though, they decided to move on with the festivities.
A small tent set up proved to be far too small for the amount of people that showed up, and at one point, organizers took side walls off the tent to make room for additional attendees.
"That was a much larger crowd than we thought we would get because of the weather," Bruce said. "Because of (the weather), we thought there'd be a bit of a depressed turnout."
Despite the community's excitement Saturday, work on Capital City High School is just beginning. On Wednesday, JCPS named Ben Meldrum, the current Simonsen 9th Grade Center principal, as the new school's principal. From July 1 until the Simonsen 9th Grade Center closes after the 2018-19 school year, Meldrum will serve in both roles.
Meldrum said he will work with Bob James, Jefferson City High School principal, as work on Capital City High School progresses. He will also be a part of conversations with the district's central office as it thinks further about student and faculty needs in the new school.
Meldrum and other JCPS officials had cursory talks about staffing needs at the new school. Some teachers will be added Meldrum said, and determining exact staffing needs will be one of the district's top priorities moving forward.
"The best asset we have is our teachers, so we want to make sure we're putting them in a place where they know where they're going to work," he said. "But we want to do it right."
Early work at the site began weeks before this weekend's event. By Saturday, trees were cleared, and dynamite blasting will start soon.
JCPS Chief Financial Officer Jason Hoffman said the tree clearing contract was one of the first bids awarded for the school and was worth about $200,000. This week, Jefferson City-based Twehous Excavating won a $2.8 million contract to do excavating and leveling work at the site.
Hoffman said large amounts of dirt will be moved next week. Other work, like refinement of the floor plan and specifics including paint, carpet and ceiling tiles are continuing to be finalized.
With the new school now anointed Capital City High School, a few additional things thing remain to be named: the new school's nickname and colors.
Earlier this week Dennis Licklider and Tim Thompson, co-interim JCPS athletic and activities directors, said they expect the school will field varsity teams when it opens in 2019. Licklider added the football team will likely begin with just a junior varsity team during the school's first season because of the potential for injuries.
Bruce said the identity Capital City High athletes will assume with a mascot, nickname and colors will be decided in a similar fashion to way the new high school was named.
Likely, Bruce said, a naming committee will choose several nicknames and colors. The district will then hold a public vote on a nickname and colors later this year.
"There's been no shortage of recommendations," he said. "It's their decision. It's their school."
Brock Schofield, a seventh-grader at Thomas Jefferson Middle School, will be among the first students to attend the new high school. Schofield said he feels lucky he will be a student at Capital City High.
"Unlike most of you, I'll actually get to walk the halls of this school everyday," he told the crowd. "I'm really excited."
JCPS officials expect Capital City High to open for the beginning of the 2019-20 school year. Linthacum said as of now, everything remains on schedule to hit that target.
Looking out at a hilly field where the new school will sit, Meldrum said the opportunity to build a new high school feels like an event that could shape a generation of students in Jefferson City.
"I'm excited to see all the kids and their families and how excited they are for the kids that will take part in this school," he said. "I see endless possibilities not only for the school itself, but the kids as well."