SJSD plan includes Benton, Lafayette as middle schools, 1 new high school

One new high school would replace Benton and Lafayette, which would be reconfigured to middle schools

Posted: Jan 19, 2021 6:24 PM
Updated: Jan 20, 2021 8:50 AM

(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) -- The Board of Education at the St. Joseph School District will vote on a plan next week that would ask voters for up to $100 million to build a new high school and reconfigure two of its current high schools as middle schools.

That was the recommendation Tuesday by a district facilities committee that had been meeting over the past couple years. The primary part of the plan would include turning Lafayette and Benton high schools into middle schools and the construction of a new high school. Central High School would not be affected.

"The committee had a huge task," said Lute Atieh, school board member. "They got feedback from the community, teachers, administration, students and the business community. I think what resulted is a good compromise and a good plan."

Atieh said the plan checks a lot of the boxes that are needed for the district to move forward successfully.

"The overall majority of what we heard is two schools," Atieh said. "The second box to check was we'd like a new school. The third one is we'd like operational efficiency and reduce the expenses on aging facilities. The fourth is that we want our schools to be as equal as possible. There's no reason they shouldn't be equal in their academic offerings."

In the last couple years, the district has looked at several models that included leaving all three high schools the same, closing one, two or even all three of them and building one mega-school.

The plan will be presented to the board for consideration on Monday. It includes a price tag approaching $100 million, which would require a property tax increase of around 30 cents. The owner of a $100,000 home would pay around an additional $50 per year. 

If the plan is approved by the board, voters would get the final say on a tax increase in April.

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