SJSD board talks logistics, costs of new high schools

Cutting project costs to $160 million would cost the owner of a $100,000 home about an extra $131 per year in property taxes.

Posted: Dec 16, 2019 8:49 PM
Updated: Dec 17, 2019 10:50 AM

(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) The Board of Education at the St. Joseph School District on Monday entered a new phase in its process of determining which path to take on the future of the city's three public high schools.

"Before it was more about feedback," said Seth Wright, board president. "Today was the first time where we started to advocate for what we need academically, financially. That will only start to increase as we move forward with this campaign."

Two options that have risen to the top include building either two new high schools or one mega high school. Plans that originally cost as much as $190 million have now been trimmed down to $160 million. Due to the financing, had the total exceeded $160 millionm it would have needed two separate "yes" votes at the ballot box to pass.

On Monday, board members learned how much the project could cost taxpayers. The owner of a $100,000 home would pay an additional $131 per year in property taxes. That averages out to about $11 per month.

"I think when we're talking potentially add one new state-of-the-art or two new state of the art high schools, I think that's a small investment," Wright said. "I think the return on that investment, which we will have to demonstrate to the community, is well worth it."

Whichever direction the board will go, there are logistical factors they will need to consider including the location of one or two new schools, what the new school boundaries would be and how students would be transported to them.

Board members agreed that something needs to be done to ensure equal opportunities for all students in the school district. As an example, Superintendent Doug Van Zyl showed the boar that currently Central High School offers 49 sports to their students, more than the 37 offered at Benton and 31 at Lafayette.

"Changing our model is the only way I can guarantee we can provide an equal and better education for our kids. At the end of the day, that's why we're here," Wright said.

Board members agreed that due to the amount of information they were presented on Monday they will need some time to digest it before moving forward.

They agreed that they will hold a special board meeting the first full week of January to further discuss the issue.

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