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Committee leaning heavily to two high schools concept

Committee leaning heavily to two high schools concept

June 30th, 2014 in News

A straw poll of the Long Range Facilities Planning Committee revealed that 18 members of the committee prefer two high schools - or a variation of that idea - while only two want to build a single high school.

The poll was taken last week at a meeting held in Hawthorn Bank's community room on Amazonas Drive.

After reading through the results, facilitator Kenny Southwick reported the most-popular concept includes renovating the existing senior high at 609 Union St. and building a new school elsewhere, probably on the land the district owns east of Missouri 179.

Whether those two high schools are built to handle equivalent numbers of students - about 1,500 each - is less clear. Also, the fate of Nichols Career Center is also unknown, although many on the committee are supportive of the center's vocational-technical mission.

Committee members have been working in recent weeks to clarify their thoughts - and nail down answers to thousands of questions - about a trio of possible options.

The first proposal, "Option A," contemplates building a single high school. Although it is the least expensive, it also resembles a proposal soundly rejected by voters in spring of 2013. The second, "Option B," considers two high schools, one renovated and one build new. The third, "Option C," calls for the construction of two new high schools and comes with the highest price tag.

The group hopes to hold a town hall meeting to explain members' thought processes in the months to come, but a date hasn't been set yet.

At the meeting, Jason Hoffman, chief financial officer for the Jefferson City Public Schools, shared some information about what it would cost to operate new facilities, once they are built.

He estimated the total additional cost to operate two comprehensive high schools for grades 9-12 at $2.51 million. He noted it takes one cent in additional tax levy to raise $117,600 in revenues for the district.

So, the additional tax to operate a second comprehensive high school, the additional operating levy, would be $.2138 cents per $100 of assessed valuation, he said.

As a cost-savings measure, the committee also considered the impact of asking teachers to share classrooms to save space. Hoffman noted that concept is not supported by school administrators. According to Michael Kautz, an architect with the Kansas City-based architectural firm, ACI Boland, by saving $2 million in construction costs, district taxpayers would by pay about a half-cent less in debt service savings.

Former teacher Lonnie Schnieder said: "From a high school perspective, teachers need a work area. Sometimes traveling teachers take a cart, but it's not very efficient."

Southwick added: "We call this the university model. But, if you do this, you will not allow any room for expansion and you'll soon be out of space. And people will complain if that happens."