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Columbia Missourian

Public deserves to be involved in final high school site decision

By Elizabeth Brixey
September 14, 2007 | 4:12 p.m. CDT
Elizabeth Brixey

Dear Reader:

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Whether you have school-age children or not, the quality of schools and the quality of education shape your community. That’s why the Missourian has made coverage of where to put Columbia’s next public high school a priority and presses to get you as much information as we can. On Thursday, four reporters from the K-12 beat went door to door on properties next to the proposed sites, asking for the pros and cons of putting a high school in their back yards.

Reporter Tori Moss, a graduate student from Oxford, Ark., said the effort was worthwhile.

“It gives the voice to the average man or woman, the people who will be most immediately affected by the noise and dust and disruption of construction,” Moss said. “What surprised me is that people weren’t opposed to building a high school. They were more concerned with finding the best spot for Columbia students as a whole.”

Since June, when the Columbia School Board approved putting the high school on the Vemer site without public input, you and the rest of the community have made it clear you care not only where the high school goes but about the process used to decide the location. In pressing for public records, we are acting as a surrogate on your behalf.

On Monday night, we posted a string of e-mails that were sent among some members of a committee appointed to evaluate the sites, including the Vemer property. That’s new for us; the traditional way of sharing that information with you would have been to write a story about the e-mails and excerpt them. But we want you to know everything we know.

“Being able to know exactly what the committee was deliberating about is essential,” said K-12 reporter Audrey Spalding, an undergraduate from Ann Arbor, Mich. “It doesn’t seem that the public is really getting a say in this matter — it’s these appointed representatives who get to do that.”

We don’t know which high school site is best, but we believe the best way for that decision to be made is with the addition of your input and insights. We want to hear from you. You can do that most quickly by e-mailing me at brixeye@missouri.edu, by participating in our new blog on the high school site found at columbiamissourian.com/blogs and by commenting on our stories online. At last count, we’ve had about 30 of them, including one that lists names and e-mail addresses of the 21 committee members charged with recommending where the school belongs.

Then there’s the meeting of the committee at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in the district’s administration building, 1818 W. Worley St. As of this writing, it’s unclear whether the public will be allowed to comment. But oftentimes being there can make a pretty big noise.

Elizabeth Brixey is a city editor at the Missourian.