Committee takes parents' questions about school changes

Friday, February 8, 2008 | 12:29 a.m. CST; updated 9:12 a.m. CDT, Friday, October 31, 2008

This article was updated throughout to clarify information.

COLUMBIA – A committee recommending that Field Elementary School be turned into an early childhood center held the first of two public meetings Thursday at Field to answer questions about the plan.

Field was chosen to be repurposed, because there would be too few students after the opening of a new elementary school in the fall of 2009 and resulting changes in school boundaries.

Field teachers, administration and staff can move to the new location along with the students, said Don Ludwig, chairman of the Elementary Enrollment Planning Committee, which is redrawing the boundaries.

Penny McManigle, a parent of two Field students, said she likes knowing that her kids will stay with the same teachers.

“It’s nice to know that the families they have outside of the home will stay with them,” McManigle said.

Turning Field into an early childhood center reflects a district need, administrators have said.

“One of the things we struggle with is the importance of a preschool education,” said Jack Jensen, assistant superintendent for elementary education. “Our solution is to move preschools to Field.”

Donna Moessner, media specialist at Field, said she wants to make sure the building is put to good use.

“We want to make sure they are repurposing it,” Moessner said.

The decisions about which students would go to the new school would be based on proximity of the students’ residences to the school and boundaries set by the committee.

“It seemed like the crowd was pretty happy with it,” said Lee Elementary School parent Esther Stroh. “I feel that the families are happy and that’s what matters.”

One reason for closing Field is the excessive amount of busing that would be required to keep it open; the committee says Field is no longer a neighborhood school and most student arrive by bus or other vehicles.

“We want to avoid Gerrymandering and creating islands at all costs,” Ludwig said.

Ludwig predicts bus routes from neighborhoods to the new school in northeastern Columbia, at Waco and Brown Station roads, will take the same amount of time as current routes to Field, give or take fewer than five minutes.

The plan will be presented to the Columbia School Board in May. Until then, the committee is accepting feedback and opinions. The committee is holding a public meeting Feb. 12.

“Our ideas keep getting better with input from committee members,” Jensen said. “But this is a community issue.”

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