Document: JC Schools LetterView
The Jefferson City School District is delaying a decision on how to address student overcrowding, Superintendent Larry Linthacum announced Monday.
The Board of Education had originally planned to consider adding the construction of two fifth- and sixth-grade centers to April's ballot at Monday's meeting, but Linthacum said more time is needed to evaluate possible solutions to overcrowding in K-8 grades.
"I've kind of had a stirring in my stomach for quite some time of whether, at the end of the day, was it the right thing to do, and so we're just trying to do the right thing," Linthacum said.
He said changes in the district throughout this school year and last school year have impacted his decision to delay the process, including Capital City High School opening, middle school English splitting into reading and writing, and bus routes, start times and boundary lines changing. He said he wants to focus on student achievement and behaviors, literacy, culture and climate while continuing to find a solution to overcrowding.
"Slowing down the bond issue process, we believe, will allow us to remain laser focused on our student priorities," Linthacum said.
Director of Communications Ryan Burns said they have decided it's better to wait to do a bond campaign, because it was moving too quickly and they didn't want that to be their entire focus at this time. She and other district leaders are working on setting short term goals to address these needs.
"We, as a leadership team, need to focus on attacking student behaviors and student achievement with that same level of fervor and excitement that we would have with a bond issue or a campaign," Burns said. "We're just kind of slowing down the bond issue and putting a kind of refocused attention on those areas and just committing as a leadership team to really focus on them heavily."
Linthacum said he is confident he will have a plan to address overcrowding next year, and it is possible that it could be on the ballot in April of next year.
"The 5-6 option may still be the best option, but we want to make sure and vet that with some other considerations," Linthacum said.
Between now and then, Linthacum plans to gather more stakeholder input, assess the district's long- and short-term facility needs and gather more data on student populations, achievement and discipline in local fifth- and sixth-grade centers, he said.
Over the past 10 months, district leaders have formed a Facilities Focus Group and gathered stakeholder input to determine a solution to the overcrowding. They hosted town hall meetings Jan. 8-9 to present the plan to the community and hear the public's opinions.
Linthacum said the public's input on the fifth- and sixth-grade centers contributed to his decision to delay the process, but it wasn't the only reason.
Burns said the delay will allow for more time to collect community feedback.
"This will give us even more time as we work through the process to give advance notice of weeks and months that meetings are coming up and opportunities to collect feedback and not just collect that feedback right before a board meeting, but take that feedback and work through it over time to give us a good product in the end."
He said he plans to continue to get the community's input by putting it on the board agenda and discussing it at the monthly Coffee with Larry events, as well as other opportunities. He also said he plans to go to one school a week to get input from teachers, which he and other district leaders did in the fall.
Linthacum said he also needs to address phase two of Capital City High School, activities and athletic fields needs and building renovations, but overcrowding is a greater priority. The K-8 buildings have been overcrowded since 2014, and seven out of the 13 buildings will have trailers by fall.
"I just think we need to slow down and make sure that we're doing what we're doing with fidelity going forward," Linthacum said.