Multimedia Journalist

Community, school board talk intermediate center

The Jefferson City School District will hold two community meetings before the Jan. 13 Board of Education meeting to discuss plans for addressing K-8 space needs.

Discussions by the community and board members at Monday night’s meeting included positive and opposing comments for two fifth- and sixth-grade centers.

Jefferson City resident Jackie Coleman told the board after briefly studying intermediate centers she did not agree it would best serve the school district and the public.

“I’m not sure that I believe in fifth- and sixth-grade centers as it is,” Coleman said. “As I traveled the state in my 28 years of working in state government, there are very few fifth- and sixth-grade centers throughout the state.”

Some residents are interested in building another elementary school on the east side of town, she said.

“My position on this is, we have land on the east side of the town for an east elementary school,” Coleman said. “This community voiced their opinion on that, and I would hope to see that we build an east elementary building.”

Those conversations predate Superintendent Larry Linthacum, but the district has not dismissed them, Linthacum said.

In the spring, he created a facility focus group comprised of school district employees, board members and members of the public who believe the intermediate centers would best address overcrowding.

JC Schools’ Jason Hoffman, Chief Financial and Operations Officer; Director of Quality Improvement Brenda Hatfield; and Chief of Learning Brian Shindorf gave the board an updated report from the group’s findings.

Coleman expressed frustration to the board that the focus group meetings were not open to the public.

“We should have had public meetings,” Coleman said. “We should have had open discussion before you put something on the ballot because, at the end of the day, it’s our tax dollars that are getting you here.”

After hearing details of the focus group’s report including the pros and cons of building the centers and other considered options — building intermediate centers, kindergarten and first-grade centers, elementary schools or middle schools — the board agreed the presentation should be shown to the community.

Board member Stephanie Johnson, who supports the intermediate centers, originated the idea of showing the community the differences between options to bring more understanding.

“To Jackie Coleman’s point, do we need to take this presentation out in the community now in a few different forms?” Johnson asked.

Those who have been involved with the focus group and planning can clear up any questions within the community with the town hall meetings, board member Steve Bruce said.

Two meetings will take place at Thomas Jefferson Middle School and Lewis and Clark Middle School, Linthacum said.

The district will finalize dates this week, he said.

“There’s a lot of different parts to it,” Linthacum said. “I’ll be more than open to facilitate this is what we’re looking at (and) asking for feedback as we weigh the pros and cons. At the end of the day, voters will decide if we put it on the ballot by saying yes or no.”

The board will review formal ballot language for the no tax increase option at the 6 p.m. board meeting Jan. 13.

Facility focus group members Ashley French and Matt Tollerton told the board Monday the fifth- and sixth-grade option makes sense to address space needs.

“I’m a big supporter,” French said. “Overcrowding in all of the different grade levels is a big concern. I think that this is the most balanced and comprehensive approach that’s reasonable and realistic to address as many of the problems as we can.

“I have heard that there is this historic yearning for another elementary school on the east side but it really limits our ability to address problems.”

Shindorf and his staff conducted interviews with 12 of 21 districts in the state who use fifth- and sixth-grade buildings, he said Monday.

Board member Ken Enloe suggested the district staff look at comparable districts in size to JC Schools within the Midwest to gather more information about the option.

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