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story.lead_photo.caption 2019: Simonsen 9th Grade Center sustained heavy damage in the May 2019 tornado; hours before the tornado, classes had dismissed for the school year.

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A vote Monday night of Jefferson City School District's Board of Education brought the former Simonsen 9th Grade Center a step closer to becoming apartments.

The board approved selling the 94-year-old, tornado-hit building to Allyn and Todd Witt for $101,914.

The Witts — two former students of Simonsen — want to turn the building into about 65 one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments, with room for amenities such as a gym and business center.

The vote on selling the building was uneventful; the property has sat vacant for more than a year, following the May 22, 2019, tornado that hit the building just hours after its last students left for the summer. The plan was for future ninth-graders to move on to two high schools in the district that include freshmen students.

Board treasurer Ken Enloe did ask Monday if it was known what price range the proposed apartments would be in, but JC Schools' chief operating and financial officer Jason Hoffman said he did not know.

The approved bid does not include the option to sell the adjacent Keith Major Field with the building and its parking lot for $1 more, as the Witts had proposed as an alternate.

The Witts' team also includes partner Jeff Tegethoff and architectural company Trivers.

Simonsen's sale was not included in the amendment to the district's 2020-21 operating budget approved Monday, but the amendment does budget millions of dollars of COVID-19 pandemic-related expenses, as the district prepares to reopen its schools Aug. 24.

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Much of the budgeted increase in expenses is due to $3 million calculated to be the cost of the 1,387 students in the district so far who have signed up to do school remotely.

Families in the district will have the first 14 days of school to make their decision about the remote learning option.

JC Schools' Chief of Learning Shelby Scarbrough said the 1,387 students who have signed up so far have been spread pretty evenly between grade levels and buildings, and between elementary and secondary.

Scarbrough said high school students can change their mind about their decision at the end of the semester, while elementary and middle school students can change their mind at the end of the quarter.

In terms of the cost of remote learning, Hoffman said it's the district's expenses, and there's not really any extra money available for it.

Also taking into account hundreds of thousands of dollars in other new expenses since July 1 — including for thermal detection cameras to monitor students' temperatures as they enter school, cleaning supplies and personal protective equipment, and MiFi hotspot devices for students who don't have internet at home — the district's fund balance dipped from its originally-budgeted 23.8 percent to 20.3 percent.

Hoffman said 20.3 percent is still a healthy number, though, and he felt confident Cole County government would assist to help offset at least some of the expenses, using federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act funding.

He added "these are one time expenses, hopefully."

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Monday's board meeting was the last regular one scheduled before the start of school, and board members spent much of the meeting reviewing the district's seven-point fall opening plan with staff: increased sanitation efforts; social distancing; staff and student screening measures; personal protective equipment; limited visitor access to buildings; virtual education; and procedures for handling COVID-19 infections.

The district's full plan for opening this fall and other information — including remote learning — is available at jcschools.us.

JC Schools is also hosting a livestream "Back to JC Schools Re-entry Q&A" from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Friday.

The first hour of the event will focus on answering questions and concerns from staff, and the noon hour will focus on answering questions and concerns of families.

"If you have questions or concerns you would like to be addressed during the session, please send those in advance to [email protected] by 4:00 p.m. on Thursday, August 13th," according to a Facebook post Monday on the district's page announcing the event.

"We will do our best to ensure we answer as many questions as we can during the livestream, but if we run out of time to address them all, we will provide responses directly to you or post them to our website," the post added.

The livestream event can be viewed at youtube.com/jcschoolsvideos.

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