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First Forum on New High School

Jefferson City schools leaders and the board of education held a special public forum Monday night to address a growing and vocal opposition to the current new high school plan.More than 100 people packed the Jefferson City High School cafeteria for a more than two hour long forum that started with an explanation of the process of getting to the current campus proposal. Superintendent Brian Mitchell addressed concerns the district hadn’t done its due diligence in seeking public input and research on the proposed academy model.The second part of the forum broke attendees into smaller groups to discuss district documents showing cost break downs between the current plan and a two high school option – now favored by a vocal Facebook-based group, Concerned Citizens for 2 Public High Schools.ABC 17 News sat down with a couple of tables during their discussions and found most questions about the current plan still centered around logistics.”I’m not against the academy model,” said Mercedes Howser. “I just want to what classes they will include.”Howser grew up and went to school in Argentina. Her high school was on the academy model – but narrowly focused on three specific career tracks, not seven broad concepts. She said she would support the plan if the district ensured all academies were taught the basics and had options to take classes between the groups.According to district literature provided to attendees Monday night, that would be the case at the new high school.The other area of contention continued to be calls for a second high school – based on increased enrollment and a long-held belief that the district has outgrown it’s current single high school set-up. But one resident and member of the opposition group said he has lost faith that the board would seriously consider changing its mind.”My views are still the same [after tonight],” said Thomas Minihan. “They have made their mind up, but they’re pretending they haven’t made their mind up.”Superintendent Mitchell welcomed new perspectives and fresh ideas, but shied away from commenting on any change in plans.”I’m just excited we’re having a conversation about doing great things for the kids of Jefferson City,” he told the audience.School board president Joy Sweeney told ABC 17 News Monday the board would consider another similar forum in the future, but nothing had been set.Under the current plan, Jefferson City High School would move to a new 120 acre site just off Highway 179 next to the new St. Mary’s, as early as 2016. It would be made up of seven academies, each based on career/college-oriented subjects. The old high school and Nichols Career Center campuses have already signed into a sale agreement with Lincoln University and Linn State Technical College, pending the approval of a bond and tax levy ballot issue.

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