Jefferson City Public Schools to get feedback on ballot measures

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JEFFERSON CITY - Residents of Jefferson City will learn more about two measures on the April ballot when Jefferson City Public Schools holds a community presentation Monday night.

According to JCPS, those measures add up to a $1.10 increase in the tax levy from $3.69 to $4.79.

65 cents of the $1.10 would go toward construction of a second high school and renovation of the current high school.

JCPS Superintendent Larry Linthacum said both Jefferson City High School and the Simonsen Ninth Grade Center have received D+ facility ratings in the past.

The projected cost to build a new high school is $85 million, and the projected cost of renovations to the current high school is $45 million.

If passed, students at Thomas Jefferson Middle School would then go to the new high school, according to Linthacum. Students at Lewis and Clark Middle School would go to Jefferson City High.

25 cents of the $1.10 would go to the costs of operating a second high school, and the last 20 cents would be spent on additional instructional needs for the rest of the district.

Those instructional improvements include textbooks, technology improvements for elementary and middle schools, more behavior and mental health support, and a preschool classroom for Callaway Hills Elementary School, according to JCPS.

With a significant amount of money on the line, Linthacum recognizes the importance of being transparent with the public.

"With the bond issue here in the April election, we're trying to make it very simple, the folks know exactly what they're voting on," Linthacum said.

According to Linthacum, the long-term plan is to introduce a no-tax increase bond issue in four to five years to potentially add another middle school and at least one more elementary school.

"There's a lot of parts to it, we have a lot of needs, we didn't get here overnight, we're not going to solve it overnight," Linthacum said.

The JCPS presentation said the tax levy increase would cause the average district household an extra $317 per year.

All of these plans are to counteract overcrowding at schools in the district. According to Linthacum, there are "trailer classrooms" at Jefferson City High School, East Elementary School, and Pioneer Trail Elementary School.

JCPS said overcrowding could get worse in the future. According to JCPS, the average number of students per grade at Jefferson City High is 586, while the average number of students per grade at elementary level is 720. 

While the proposed plan does gradually address overcrowding over the next four or five years, some residents are concerned that the plan doesn't move quickly enough.

Jefferson City resident Christine Gardner is one of those people.

"My concerns are that the temporary solution is going to turn into a permanent solution," Gardner said. "In my opinion, even three to four years is still too long because these kids need a space where they can thrive in, where they can learn in, where they can feel safe in."

Gardner also raised concerns regarding the completeness of the JCPS plan.

"Without me having all the pieces to the puzzle in what's presented, I just feel like there's some pieces missing for me and I just don't know if there is a solid plan to move forward effectively," Gardner said. 

Despite wanting to know more about where all the money would go, Gardner said she would still support the ballot measures.

Monday's presentation will take place at the East Elementary School gymnasium at 5:30.

A vote on the ballot measures will take place April 4.