Plan for Columbia’s first Catholic high school is progressing

Tuesday, June 17, 2008 | 5:48 p.m. CDT; updated 6:46 p.m. CST, Thursday, February 10, 2011

COLUMBIA — Despite setbacks, Columbia’s first Catholic high school is slowly becoming a reality. When project manager Ray Beck began talking to people last August, the idea was to open the school in 2009.

“I worked hard to do that,” said Beck, former city manager of Columbia, “but we needed a finance plan to open and operate.”

Recently, some planning and financial changes have delayed progress on the school. A plan outlining what the building will be used for is needed before construction can begin. The program committee, led by former Hickman High School principal Bob Nolte, put together such a plan, including the academic and athletic expectations — for example, curriculum plans and what sports programs the school would offer.

“To prepare the footprints, we needed to know what would be in the high school,” Beck said.

For the building plan, Peckham & Wright Architects was hired. The initial size of the school was 200 students, but Beck said he thinks that expanding the school to a 400-student capacity would be better in the long run for Columbia’s growing community. To accommodate 200 more students and still comply with the city’s storm water requirements, planners chose to add a third story instead of expanding horizontally.

The school will be built at the Gans Road and Highway 63 interchange, which is currently under construction.

The cost of the school is now estimated to be between $14 million and $16 million, depending on how much is raised before construction. The new finance plan covers all costs for the school, including site work — which adds up to more than $1 million — fixtures and the construction costs. Costs rose from initial estimates of $8 million to $10 million because planners incorporated all of the costs of expanding the school together, not because there will be more students.

In early July, the architects and engineers should have their building plan completed to present to the Columbia Planning and ZoningCommission, which would then submit the plans to the City Council for approval. The next step from there, Beck said, is achieving adequate funding.

“Good committee work has been done by a lot of people,” he said. “The diocese has supported the project by donating $1.5 million, and once we have a plan, we are in a better position to talk about funding. A lot of money has been given on faith.”

Others have pledged $4.3 million for a total of $5.8 million.

Fundraising will be coordinated by Mary Gene Wepfer, associate vice president of The Steier Group, a national fundraising and development firm. The Steier Group was hired by the diocese of Jefferson City to help with the ongoing project.

The hope now is to open the school in 2010.


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