Red & Black

Room for Two?

Plans announced for second high school in Jefferson City

Photo by: Devan Palmero

Devan Palmero, Staff Reporter

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With crowded halls and outdated architecture, Jefferson City High School has met a plateau for improvement. The additions of iPads and academies has only so much to offer before the foundation of our education is solely reliant on the learning environment.

Nearly four years ago, the proposal for a second public high school was brought up to the Board of Education, suggesting an academy-based design with multiple buildings acting as separate wings, in which smaller communities of students could learn in. When the academies were tested with the freshman class of 2015, these plans were scrutinized and eventually thrown out entirely. The basis of separating the student body failed miserably, so plans for a new high school were dropped. In September of 2016, superintendent Larry Linthacum and the Long Range Planning Committee brought the issue to the Board once again.

New plans are being pulled from both Board members’ suggestions and the public opinion as to the design of the second high school and what should be added onto the current high school. There are no official blueprints for either building yet, but this is a work in progress. The Board is in agreement that actions should be taken towards the construction of a second high school, but this is only the first step.

Property has been purchased off Highway 179. In order to start construction, the Board of Education must first work out all of the costs. The current estimate for total costs is about $116,441,000, covering the renovation of the current high school, construction of the new school, and extra funding for updating our school textbooks. After these costs are finalized, the board will issue for a bond deal, which is essentially the government investing money into the project through either a raise in taxes or budget cuts in other areas. Since this bond issue will affect the citizens of Jefferson City, it will have to win 4/7 of the popular vote during the public ballot in April. If the bond deal is passed, construction will begin as soon as fall of 2017, and the new high school would be completed by 2020.

The Architects Alliance has been hired by the BOE to design the plans for a new school and add-ons to the old school. The architects take suggestions from the BOE and the faculty of JCHS and give them design options which meet those needs. The process is narrowed down with each design until a final product is agreed upon. Cary Gampher, Principal Architect and co-director of the project, explains the process further.

“We have a better prison than a high school ”

— John Ruth

“We’ll take what they like about each one [design options], and then we’ll come back to the drawing board and do another one that incorporates what they liked and gets rid of what they didn’t like,” Gampher said, “The pretty picture is the last thing you do.”

“We’ll take what they like about each one [design options], and then we’ll come back to the drawing board and do another one that incorporates what they liked and gets rid of what they didn’t like,” Gampher said, “The pretty picture is the last thing you do.”

“We’ve got a nicer prison than we do a high school,” Ruth says, referring to the renovations recently done to the Jefferson City Correctional Center.

If there is a second building for students to go to, the stress of the student body will be distributed more efficiently. Simonsen will most likely be decommissioned, either being repurposed or demolished completely. Students from Thomas Jefferson Middle School will go to the current high school, while students from Lewis & Clark Middle School would attend the new high school. Some teachers from JCHS will be transferred to the new building, but there will still need to be an increase in staff. Renovations for the current school include a new gymnasium and locker rooms and a connected segment between the JCHS building and the Nichols Career Center building. Maintenance and refurbishing will also be included in the expenses.

Larry Linthacum believes a new high school is in the near future of Jefferson City.

“We are out of space, we want to increase opportunities, and I think we can all agree that a smaller learning environment can be beneficial,” Linthacum said.

He stresses that there will be more opportunities for extracurriculars and one-to-one communication with teachers. There is still some skepticism in the community about having two teams for each sport and having competition between high schools. Linthacum believes that separating the student body will no more bring us apart than to have an overcrowded facility.

“The time is now to invest in our education,” Attorney Jacob Westen said.

Construction prices are on the rise and population isn’t diminishing. The Long Range Planning Committee and the BOE are all in agreement that we must jumpstart our educational system, and an obvious first step is giving the students of Jefferson City a safe, comfortable and practical learning environment.

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Room for Two?