February 26, 2021

Community split on talks of renovating insurance space into high school

(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) Monday night’s bombshell announcement at the St. Joseph School Board meeting on the…

(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) Monday night’s bombshell announcement at the St. Joseph School Board meeting on the tentative plans to buy and transform the American Family Regional Headquarters into a high school sent shockwaves throughout the city.  

Administrators said the district is only in talks with the insurance company, but community members are speaking their mind. 

John Hoffman, retired Benton High School teacher opposes the idea. He said, “It’s ridiculous. It’s mind numbing that they would even think of this.”

While others like Ashley Stroud and Shaun Agnew side with the district that turning the American Family building into a new high school is a well thought out concept. 

Agnew said, “If you’re not even open to the idea, will you ever be behind any idea that the district presents?”

Major key point of discussion on the proposed remodeling site is location. Some argue placing the high school right across the street from Missouri Western State University will build stronger relationships and opportunities for students. However, some fear that adding another school to Mitchell Avenue will create a traffic headache. 

Opposers of the possible new location also said for students and parents on the southside, it’s too far. 

“You’re gonna have a fleet of buses? You can’t even recruit enough bus drivers as it is. To take the students all the way up northeast? They might as well go to Savannah High School,” said Hoffman. 

Another point of arguement is cost. Community members disagree on what move is going to give the SJSD the biggest bang for its buck. 

Stroud said not only is the location great as it’s next to the university and interstate, but renovating the American Family building is more cost effective. She said, “Rehabbing a school will cost less than building from the ground up.”

Regardless where residents fall on the issue of supporting the district’s plan to renovate the American Family Regional Headquarters or would rather have the money be spent on fixing up Benton and Lafayette, everyone agrees they’re voting on what’s best for students. 

“We have to grow and move forward if we want this community to become better. We have to grow and move forward and that starts with the school system,” said Stroud. 

The district’s plan is contingent on voters passing the $107 million bond placed on the April Ballot.