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Jefferson City School District focusing on safety, attendance as another year begins | #schoolsaftey


The first day of school for the Jefferson City School District is Monday. In a district that has around 8,500 kids enrolled for the school year, Superintendent Bryan McGraw said safety is the district’s number one priority. 

“We’re always, constantly trying to improve our safety for our kids,” McGraw said. 

The school district has seven school resource officers, with officers always at the district’s secondary schools. McGraw said the district pays half of those salaries, while the city covers the other half. 

“It’s just not policing, it’s relationships with students and their ability to be someone to talk to, a trusted authority figure, where if a kid reaches out for help, they can help them,” McGraw said. 

Along with SROs, McGraw said each building has a vestibule, an area between the front door and the inside of the building, to keep visitors in a secure area and ensure they don’t enter the building unless authorized. 

Other safety concerns from earlier this year include lead found inside certain buildings, and half of the district’s buses deemed “defective.” McGraw said both issues have since been resolved. 

This summer, lead was detected in sinks and cleaning stations at Callaway Hills Elementary, but McGraw said have been fixed. The rest of the buildings will be tested throughout the year and into next summer. 

In June, the Missouri State Highway Patrol reported more than half of the district’s buses were “defective” or “out of service.” McGraw said while the district was not happy with those inspection results, the buses have been fixed.  

The district contacts with First Student for transportation and McGraw said this year certain buses will have another adult on board to serve as a monitor and an extra set of eyes to deal with discipline and behavior issues. 

In regard to overall safety, McGraw said parents should have an open line of communication with their child and the district. That way, if there is anything of concern, parents can reach out to the district immediately and officials can respond to the situation. 


Attendance is something McGraw said the district is focusing on for the 2023-2024 school year, with a goal of 90%.  

“One of our main goals is to have kids in seat, because when they’re with us, we know they’ll do great things,” McGraw said. 

According to data from the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, the district saw an attendance rate of 73.4% in 2022, which was slightly below the state average of 76.2%. 

While McGraw admits 90% is a lofty goal, he said the district has been working to add additional activities at all grade levels to attract kids to school. These include teachers doing anything from yoga clubs to chess clubs to drawing clubs. 

“We want kids to learn. We want them to grow and succeed,” McGraw said. “But, if they’re not in front of us, that’s a problem.” 

Test scores

Another area the district aims to grow is test scores.  

“We always want to do better,” McGraw said. 

He said a lot of work has been put into the curriculum at the district’s elementary and middle school levels, with a focus on middle school math scores. 

On the secondary level, he said district leaders are happy with recent test scores. McGraw said 324 students passed an advanced placement exam in the last school year, compared to 86 in 2018. 


McGraw said the district is fully staffed for this school year, with the exception of a few specialty positions. This staff includes 140 new teachers. 

Incentives for teachers to stay include a career ladder program that allows teachers to get up to a $5,000 raise if they put 100 hours of their time outside of the school day toward student achievement. 

The district also approved a $2,000 raise for all teachers in the 2024 budget, the highest raise in 15 years. 

“They deserve it,” McGraw said. “We want to retain our teachers, we want to attract people, and at the end of the day, they are the talent. They are with kids each and every day, making a difference in their lives, so we have to give them the respect they deserve.” 

McGraw said JCSD is dealing with a shortage of bus drivers. 

He said last year the district struggled occasionally with getting students to class on time due to drivers calling in sick or otherwise not being able to come to work, causing drivers to combine routes and create delays. He said they’re trying to avoid that this school year, and encourages anyone interested to apply. 

“I think we’re down a few drivers from where we were pre-COVID, but enough to man the routes and have kids here and learning,” McGraw said. 


In April, voters approved the Kids FIRST bond issue, allowing the district to begin working on many new projects. Of these, McGraw said the new Thorpe Gordon Stem Academy will be opening this school year, and interactive touchscreens have been put in all pre-K through eighth-grade classrooms. 

Other projects on the horizon include building an early childhood center, renovating both middle schools, expanding the career center campus and updating equipment at the Miller Performing Arts Center. 

McGraw also said the district is opening the athletic facilities at Capital City High School this school year. 

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