Jefferson City long range facility planning committee meets

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - Jefferson City Schools are bursting at the seams, but leaders don't have a plan to expand yet.

After voters shot down the plan for one new high school this year, the district's board said it needed to listen more.

The district brought community members together Saturday to come up with a long-term plan for growth. The members of this new planning committee are all involved in the community in varying ways.

It will still be several months before there's any plan, but that plan will chart the path for the next 20 years.

"We're going to be in this for a long time," said Kenny Southwich, committee facilitator.

The community split over plans for a cramped high school, with the district's plan shot down at the ballot box in April. But the prospect of adding a new high school is leading to a bigger picture, a look at every building in the district.

"We've identified the school and community are in this together and need to work and develop a relationship and partnership to look at common visions and develop some kind of commitment and communication," Southwick said.

35 members were broken into small groups, thinking and planning for the school district's future.

"In the small groups right now we are identifying those things in the school and community we are most proud of. We are also going to look at what we think our challenges are going to be over the next several years," said Southwick. "When we end today, we are going to see what are the barriers we'll have to overcome to be able to do our work."

Every year, the committee will track the success of the plans, making changes if needed.

Many voters in April said they felt the district had ignored them. Town hall and committee meetings will be held each month before the presentation to the school board next July.  

"We will focus on issues that will allow this district and community to set an aspiration of a 20 year plan," Southwick said. "It will not be a single focus, it will be looking for solutions for issues the district and community will face over the next 20 years."

Lorelei Schwartz, co-chair of the planning committee, told ABC 17 News the ultimate goal is to look at every school building and partnerships with universities determining, "what needs to be done and when."

The committee is broken into three parts, one to look at pre-K through eigth grade needs. Another will look at high school needs, and a third that looks at the combined needs of those two.

The school board had bought land near the new St. Marys Health Center off 179 for one new high school in October 2012.

In December, the school board signed an agreement with Lincoln University and Linn Tech to sell the old high school if the new plans went through.

It was this April when voters turned down a $79 million bond and levy issue.

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