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Jackson R-2 Board OKs junior high construction budget, bid

The Jackson R-2 School Board approved the budget for a $6.1 million junior high construction project, which includes expanding the cafeteria and adding a new library and band room.

The Board rejected the first round of bids for the project in December and rebid the project last month. Superintendent John Link said the first round of bids came in too high, which was mostly caused by the original construction timeline. Originally the project was supposed to be entirely completed before classes started this August.

“We went back to the bidders and made it a little bit easier for them,” Link said. “They had a hard time coming up with bids the first time because we wanted to have it all done by next August. They just didn’t know how to apply overtime and things of that nature, so the bids were pretty high.”

Link said the District worked with the top two bidders from December, Brockmiller Construction and Zoellner Construction to try to find a better timeline for the project. “Both of them saw what we were looking to change, so there should be no hard feelings there,” Link said.

Link added that through the rebidding process, no major revisions were made to the renovation’s design and no square footage was lost during the changes.

Both companies lowered their bids in the second round, with Brockmiller bidding $714,000 less than they original bid and Zoellner bidding $449,000 less than they did in December.

Brockmiller had the lowest bid of $5.07 million, which the Board approved during its February regular meeting. The project budget also includes an addition $1 million in soft costs, including architecture and engineering work, new furniture, new technology and a change order contingency.

“What we talked about from the beginning was trying to keep it within a $6.1 million budget,” Link said. “I’m happy with the bids and that we stayed within that budget.”

He added that work would begin immediately, with Brockmiller beginning work outside the building on the new library and band room additions.

Over the summer, work will move to renovate some of the existing building, with the counselor’s offices being moved near the front office, a new entrance vestibule added, the cafeteria entrances and exits seeing improvements and new restrooms being added.

Link said the addition of the new band and library will hopefully be done by winter break and then the remaining work will be finished summer of 2021.

At that time, the existing band and choir rooms will be combined for choir; the current library will become special education classrooms; the existing special education classrooms will be made into art classrooms; and the current art classrooms will be taken out to expand the cafeteria.

In other action

• JHS students Hayley Rosborg, Patrick Malone, Maggie Carter, Lila Rushing and Jeremy Brown were recognized by the Board for being named to the Missouri All-State Choir. Stone Vandeven, who was not at the Board meeting, was also selected to the all-state choir.

After a two-step audition process, 240 Missouri students (80 of which are alternates) were chosen for the choir. Six of the 24 students chosen from the southeast district came from JHS.

Rosborg and Malone spoke about their experience at the Missouri All-State Choir, which met from Jan. 22-25 at the Lake of the Ozarks.

Rosborg, who is a two-year member of the all-state choir, said the experience lived up to her previous involvement and that the choir worked on putting more style into their performance than what was written by the composers.

Malone added that it was a great group of singers from across the state, and they were all prepared and ready to work when they got there. “I think everyone could have sung it by memory in our first run-through,” he said. “It was incredible.”

Two younger Jackson students, Tucker Teague and Gavin Shinn, were also recognized for being a part of the first-ever Missouri All-State Children’s Choir. The children’s choir included fourth and fifth grade students from across the state and performed on Jan. 22.

• The JHS football team was recognized by the Board for its undefeated regular season and competing at the state title game, which Jackson hadn’t previously done since 1995. Many of the team’s players attended the meeting and several students talked to the board about the team and their experiences this season.

Nathan Harrison said the support from the community that the team received was a major factor in their success and that this year’s game against Battle was a highlight for him as a player.

Seth Waters spoke about one of his favorite memories from this year was the home game against Eureka. Waters said he had never heard the crowd at The Pit that loud. He added that the support continued at the state game, where the Jackson crowd couldn’t be ignored.

Caleb Craft said that although the whole season was special, his favorite memory was seeing Jackson Boulevard lined with fans as they left for the state title game.

Randol McDowell talked about the teams hashtag, #ToughSmartStrong. He talked about examples for each word in the hashtag – how it’s tough to wake up at 5 a.m. for practice, how they play smart by watching a lot of film footage and working on their plays and how they constantly built strength in the weight room.

Thomas Ruch spoke about changing positions after a knee injury. He switched from playing as a quarterback to the center position. Coach Brent Eckley said there were several students who moved positions to help the team be better.

In addition, Waters, Mc-Dowell, Cole Amelunke, Ashton Flinn, Bryce Norman, Connor Tollison, and Cael Welker were recognized for being named all-state players. Rhet Liley was also an all-state player but was unable to attend the meeting.

• The District is currently working on a 2021-2026 strategic plan that will include new goals for the District, as well as incorporate the ongoing or unachieved aspects of the current strategic plan.

“We don’t want to get away from our plan, and we don’t want a new plan,” Link said. “We want something that continuously grows.”

Committees will review the plan and timeline through May. A recommended strategic plan for the next five years will be presented to the board for approval in July. The plan will then be able to be presented to staff at the beginning of the next school year.

“Five years ago, when we did this, I think it completely changed the District,” Link said. “It brought the community together with the district and it gave us a focus. People started believing in us, because we put out what we were going to do and we did it. Every time we make a decision, we are still using that plan.”

Interview responses from Board members, teachers, students and community members have found that many of the District’s current strengths came from the last strategic planning process – including the whole child focus, service learning, facility and advances in technology. Other identified strengths are district pride, community support, enthusiasm for the superintendent and the addition of a special education director.

One of the issues that have come up, according to Link, was the stress load of teachers. He added that they are working to fix that.

• May 28-June 18 was named the summer school dates for the upcoming summer. The 16-day program for elementary students will be held at West Lane Elementary School and East Elementary School. The theme this year will be “U.S.A.” in honor of the Olympic games.

Summer school will continue to be held at the middle school, while the high school will house both junior high and high school summer school students, due to the junior high construction.  Online summer school classes have grown in popularity and will continue to be offered this year.

• The Board approved two letters of support. The first was on behalf of the City of Jackson, saying the District is in support for the City receiving a grant from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. The grant would help fund lights at the Jackson Soccer Park.

The second letter, addressed to Rich Payne, was in favor of adding post-secondary vocational education opportunities in Southeast Missouri. Payne, who was formerly the director of the Cape Girardeau Career and Technology Center, is currently working as an advocate and lobbyist to bring a post-secondary technical school to the region.

Link said students who want to gain these skills currently have to move away from Jackson to get this further education. No monetary obligation was attached to either letter.

Jay Forness covers education, county government and community events for The Cash-Book Journal. He graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a degree in multimedia journalism and has lived in Jackson for the past five years. He can be reached at

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