Officials from the St. Joseph School District talked with members of the St. Joseph Chamber of Commerce on Nov. 1 about its Master Facilities Plan, which is currently open for public comment.
There are five options being discussed with community members to better the facilities of the district which include: build a new single high school; two new high schools; build one new high school and renovate Central High School; renovate current high schools; and build a new ninth grade center and 10-12 high school. To learn more about these concepts, see this site.
“Doing nothing is the worst thing we can do,” said Superintendent Dr. Doug Van Zyl. He said in the last two years the district has lost 450 students, with transcripts showing most are going south, to Kansas City area school districts with better facilities and expanded opportunities.
Seth Wright, president of the school board, said 70 percent of those 450 students had a 90 percent attendance rate or above.
“We’re losing our best and brightest,” he said.
When our students go to other schools for competitions, they see the difference between school districts. He said he’s talked with several students who ask, “why don’t we have what other kids have? Do their communities like them more?”
Dr. Van Zyl said it’s not just about the newness of buildings, but efficiencies and educational opportunities for students. Wright urged business leaders to get involved.
“You cannot sit behind your desk on this,” he said. “I hope this is your call to action. We have to be united. We (the school district) can’t do it alone.”
The next step is to evaluate the community’s response to the survey and analyze feedback from public sessions. Then the board will need to make a decision on which option to pursue to bring before a public vote.
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