Jackson High School senior Jada Martin showed the Board artwork she made at the Missouri Fine Arts Academy. Photo by Jay Forness
R-2 School Board OKs junior high additions, possible new administration building

by Jay Forness ~ Assistant Editor

The Jackson R-2 School Board on Aug. 13 approved a $6.5 million lease purchase for renovations at the junior high, as well as a new administration building if there are enough funds after the junior high project is bid out.


The junior high renovations will include a new band room addition to the south of the industrial technology room, and a new library/media center replacing some of the current courtyard in the center of the building. Both the library and band room will be significantly larger than they currently are. A new corridor is also planned on the east side of the building for access to the new band room.


The current drawings of the project include 10,480 square feet of new construction, as well as 24,000 square feet of renovation at the junior high. The current band and choir room will be combined to house a larger choir room, the counselors’ offices will be moved near the main entrance, the cafeteria will be expanded, new restrooms will be built and art classrooms will be moved to where the current library is located.


Superintendent Dr. John Link estimated the junior high project would cost around $5.1 million, on the high end, leaving enough funds in the approved lease purchase to build a new administration building for the District, to be built near Orchard Drive Elementary School.


Link said the current building has run out of offices. Several people who have offices in hallways are dealing with personnel matters. “Confidentiality is not really there and we have to do something about it,” Link said.


At the new location near Orchard, it will be across the street from the existing support services building and bus parking, making communication with support services easier for the District. The current design for the new administration building has 16 offices, a boardroom, a conference room and a break area.


Link said they chose this location after looking at buying and renovating the Nazarene church, expanding the current board office and leasing space from Montgomery Bank. He said every option cost about the same for the District, and the new construction would allow the District to use the existing Administration Building for an alternative school.


The 6,500 square foot new Administration Building will have more space and more parking than the current location, and will leave enough land for Orchard to continue having physical education classes and play days outside. Link said the major downside to the location is that the District doesn’t currently have access to get to the building site without going through Orchard’s parking lot.


The new building is estimated to cost $1.5 million dollars, and Link said the reason the cost is so high is because of prevailing wage. There is also $350,000 already budgeted for administration renovations that would go to the project. He added that the new construction could primarily be built by District staff, which would probably bring the costs down.


The vote approving the lease purchase was 6-1, with Board Member Bruce Thomas voting against the motion. Thomas said he was for the additions at the junior high but against the new Administration Building. Several other Board members agreed that the junior high renovations should be the priority.


Link said it was financially feasible to do the lease purchase now and would lower the number of projects needed to complete in the future. “When the time comes that we have to go to the people for a tax increase, by doing this with our funds right now, it will keep us from having to increase taxes a whole lot,” Link said.


Link said he expected the District will need to ask for a tax increase of at least 20 cents in April 2020 or April 2021. “We are at $3.85, which is so much lower than any other school our size,” Link said. “If we show them the number of kids and number of classrooms, they will see the need.”


In other action:


• The Board revised 25 board policies, ranging from new guidelines for making sure there are no discriminatory action that makes it difficult for students to participate in school meals to changing the academic calendar requirements from referencing number of days to referencing number of hours.


“A lot of the policy changes are due to legislative changes – bills that have been passed and require some new pieces of text to be added,” Assistant Superintendent Dr. Beth Emmendorfer said. She added that there were no major changes to how the District operates.


Some of the other changes related to the administration of medications to students. High school freshmen will now be allowed to carry over the counter drugs like Tylenol at school. Previously this was allowed for 10th graders and up, but ninth graders were added so the policy was consistent for all high school students. A policy on student health services was also changed to allow for school nurses to administer naloxone medication to reverse an opioid overdose.


Several policies were also updated due to medical marijuana being legalized on the state level. Because the District receives federal funds and marijuana is still illegal on a federal level, students and guests are not allowed to bring medical marijuana on school grounds.


A new policy was added to address the various ways the District could employ a retired teacher. The policy refers to the retirement system’s resources, to stay up to date with their changes.


The District also changed its policy to not allow schools to be used to facilitate visitation during custody disputes among parents/guardians. Emmendorfer said they have tried to enforce that rule, but it is useful to have it as an official policy.


• Link told the Board there are 341 new students enrolled this year. He said some students will more out of the District, but the total number of students will grow by about 150-200 students. He said they planned for a growth of 60 students, so this is more than expected.


Several classes at the elementary level are at 25 students, and school administrators are trying to move some elementary students to less crowded buildings to make sure class size stays low across the District.


Of the 341 new students, 93 are at the high school, 68 are at the middle school and 38 are at the junior high. In the District, there are more than 1,900 K-12 students this school year.


• The Board set a tax rate hearing on Monday, Aug. 26. The hearing will take place at 6 p.m. at the Ignite Center at Jackson High School.


• Jackson High School senior Jada Martin spoke about her experience at the Missouri Fine Arts Academy. The two-week summer residential program, held at Missouri State University June 2-15, includes student involved in visual arts, theater, dance, creative writing and music.


Martin, who focused on visual arts, was one of 100 high school students chosen to attend. She explained that the academy includes interdisciplinary classes, such as one where the visual art students drew the dancers. The program also included art-specific classes where she made several pieces to be shown in a gallery. Martin also took electives including a street art workshop and one where they created hyper-realistic shoes out of cardboard and paper.


“The academy was a great experience for me to learn and work very quickly,” Martin said. She said that the demanding work load at the academy will help her this school year, as she will have to maintain a similar work speed during AP Studio Art.


• The Jackson Middle School will see the addition of a new electronic sign. The board approved the $15,149 purchase from Coast to Coast Signs. The bid includes installing the sign and removing the broken sign. The sign will resemble the signs at East and West Lane.


• The West Lane FEMA shelter will be inspected on Aug. 27, closing out the project and will result in the District receiving the last of the reimbursements from the federal government of around $250,000.