Planning for the future is an imprecise process, particularly when the topic is public education.
Nevertheless, that is the charge for a new committee created by the Jefferson City School District.
The long-range planning group has been asked to assess facilities' needs during the next 20 years.
Their effort comes in the wake of a failed ballot issue to replace the existing high school with a new complex at Mission Drive and Missouri 179.
Superintendent Brian Mitchell addressed one of the variables when he described shifting enrollment projections.
Mitchell recalled a panel established five years ago to explore the secondary space needs was faced with flat or declining enrollment. "But fast-forward five years from that first year," he added, "we've had an increase in enrollment."
Among other variables to consider:
• What role will parochial schools play? Calvary Lutheran High School and Concord Christian School have joined Helias Catholic High School as local parochial, secondary education options.
• What is the future of charter schools, school vouchers and transfer programs, and how will they effect public school enrollment?
• Will future education models change facility needs? The local district has adopted the "academies" model, and its proposed new high school was designed to accommodate that approach to education. Will the next two decades bring additional changes or refinements?
These are only a few of the issues the committee will explore during the next nine months. The group is scheduled to meet monthly, host two public meetings next year and issue its report to the Board of Education in June.
The committee faces a tremendous challenge, but district patrons can help by offering insight, encouragement and vision.