Debate over Jefferson City's new high school campus continues

Mar 18, 2013

An artist's rendering of the proposed new Jefferson City High School.
Credit Jefferson City Public Schools

On April 2, Jefferson City residents will vote on whether to approve a $79 million bond issue that would fund the construction of a new elementary school and a new high school. But, the proposal for a new high school has drawn opposition from some members of the community.

Opponents of the bond issue believe Jefferson City students would be ill served in what they call a “mega high school.” While they want a new high school to be built, they think the existing campus should remain open, making the population at each school smaller.

“I don’t believe the majority of the people of the Jefferson City school district want their children in a three thousand plus student high school,” said Dan Ortmeyer. He is the treasurer for Citizens for Two Public High Schools, a group that opposes the bond issue, and thinks building a second high school is the best option for Jefferson City.

“We have one school with a rich tradition. There’s no reason we can’t start a second school and they start their own tradition. This is no different than Hickman and Rock Bridge,” he said.

But according to Jefferson City Board of Education President Joy Sweeney, building a new high school and keeping the current one open just isn’t an option.

“There is just absolutely no way that we can take a 50 year old building and make it the same standard as a brand new structure that we would build,” she said. “I mean, we wouldn’t build something that was comparable to that building.”

Sweeney also said it was more cost effective to build a new school instead of renovating the current high school and building a second school.

“If the streets were paved with gold, I would love to build seven brand new high schools and keep them all small and provide everybody with the same opportunities,” she said. “But, you know that’s not the case. So what we will be able to do is provide the small learning communities at the same time as all the opportunities for educational, academic excellence that you can obtain from the economies of scale of having one large facility.”

According to the Jefferson City Board of Education, the proposed high school would have room for more than 3,000 students, and would be built on enough land to allow expansion in the future if necessary.