SJSD plans for future include 1, 2, or 3 high schools

A focus group made up of community members got a look at seven different plans for the future of SJSD high schools. They range in cost from $110-190 million and could include building one or two new high schools.

Posted: Oct 16, 2019 10:45 PM
Updated: Oct 17, 2019 3:25 PM

(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.)  -- For several years St. Joseph School District administrators have been warning the community that there would have to be changes in the structure of the city's three high schools. Facility studies have included the possibility of closing at least one of the schools and building at least one new school.

Monday evening some members of the public got a peek at some of those different scenerios. They range in cost anywhere between $110 - 190 million.

 "We can no longer afford three high schools, or maybe we can, but is that the best way to spend our money?" said board of education member Tami Pasley.

One plan includes closing all three high schools and building one large facility that would hold approximately 3,000 students. Another includes eliminating all three schools and building two new schools. Another plan left all three schools open with millions of dollars of renovations done to each.

"We've come to a fork in the road and we have to make some tough decisions," Pasley said.

Guiding the board is a focus group of around 100 people chosen from the community. They will give input to board members who have been grappling with facilities consolidation plans for the past several years.

"Moving forward for the district and the city is so critical," said Lori Witham, a retired SJSD teacher who is also a member of the focus group.

Also among the voices being heard are students. Benton senior Kassandra Del Toro was among a group looking at one of the plans that would close her school.

"I personally think it'd be sad. I feel very close to Benton High School," Del Toro said.

However, Southside pride might not be enough to sway what ultimately may need to be done.

"I can't think about what would be best for the North End, and I live in the North End," she said. "I can't think what would be best for the South End, what would be best for the east end of town, I have to think about what is best for all 11,000 kids and what plan will benefit every child."

Administrators stress they are still just floating these ideas and add they are nowhere close to making any final decisions. They said there will be plenty of opportunity for public input.

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