When Jefferson City's School Board meets Dec. 12, Superintendent Larry Linthacum said Monday night, he likely will recommend asking voters in April to authorize building a second high school.
More work needs to be done, however, on refining the proposal before he actually submits it, the second-year superintendent told the board during a Monday night work session.
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The proposed $130 million to $140 million project also would include money to renovate the existing high school, 609 Union St., which was opened in 1964. The project would give the district two high schools offering the same general programs, classes and opportunities.
"I don't want to say they'd be identical, but they'd be pretty close," Linthacum told the News Tribune. "The board talked about the 'haves' and the 'have-nots.'
"We want to make sure that's not the case."
Linthacum told the board the proposal also would help resolve some likely overcrowding.
"In our current high school, grades 10-12, the average class size is 549 kids," he explained. "This year's sixth grade, fourth grade, second grade and kindergarten are all above 700."
Linthacum said adding a second high school also would give "more opportunities for kids (in) clubs, sports, school plays, etc."
He recalled his experience as a freshman basketball coach when he taught in Jefferson City in 1995-96, when "72 or 73 kids came out for basketball" but he had to cut that roster to 24 players.
Even if voters reject a proposed second high school, Linthacum noted, there still are ongoing maintenance costs, including "around $13 million in heating and cooling needs at the high school that need to be addressed."
The district bought land in 2012 on the north side of Mission Drive and Missouri 179 — just north of the new St. Mary's Hospital.
Originally proposed as the site for a new, one-campus high school to replace the current facility — a plan voters rejected in 2013 — Board President John Ruth noted the land also is "ideal for a second high school proposal."
And first-year member Rich AuBuchon said the Mission Drive location "doesn't have the same issues (where) people are driving through neighborhoods" to reach the high school campus.
Chief Financial Officer Jason Hoffman told the board he's still refining the numbers for a final proposal, but it appears the suggested bond issue would require "almost a 67-cent increase" in the tax levy for the construction projects, plus additional taxes to staff and operate the second high school, as well as some additional money to pay for immediate needs in the district's elementary buildings.
Jefferson City's current property tax levy is $3.69 for each $100 of assessed property value — well below the $4.19 average for all of Missouri's public school districts.
Hoffman said it appears the district would need voters' approval for a total $4.90 levy that, when properly structured, could be kept steady even when the district faces additional projects — so that voters could be asked to approve no-tax-increase proposals for those future needs.
Board Vice President Steve Bruce noted the increase would be about $26 a month for the average district homeowner — or about 85 cents a day.
That $4.90 tax levy still would be lower than the $5.37 statewide average levy for school districts, like Jefferson City, that have between 5,000 and 15,000 students.
Jefferson City currently has nearly 9,000 students in all grades.
Board members said the proposal will help Jefferson City grow — and Linthacum told a reporter the idea would benefit all of the community, including those whose children attend parochial or private schools.
"It is a challenge," he acknowledged, adding: "We are strong together in all of our educational schools.
"We just want to make sure that we can educate folks (on) the value-added that it brings to our community."