Changes to new high school address community questions

Tuesday, June 17, 2008 | 6:43 p.m. CDT; updated 12:56 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

COLUMBIA — Design changes to Columbia’s next public high school are intended to improve security to the main entrance, increase access to the performing arts center and make the school look promising over the years it will take to finish it.

Wanda Brown, assistant superintendent for secondary education and chairwoman of the new high school’s construction steering committee, said the locations of the main entry, performing arts center and media center have been altered to reflect an ongoing conversation between the committee and community members.

The committee meets frequently to discuss the design and function of the new school, which will be on the St. Charles Road Development site in northeastern Columbia. Brown said the committee proposed changes in May because of the distance visitors would have to travel from the building’s main entrance to the commons area.

It was elongated; now it will be in the shape of an arc, meaning visitors will be confined to a smaller area — easier to supervise and also immediately connected to administrative and guidance offices as well as a nurse’s office and conference room.

Also, the performing arts center will be moved from the side of the school that houses core academics, such as mathematics, English, science and social studies, to the fine arts-based area. That also puts the performing arts center next to student parking, thus making it more accessible to the public — for example, to attend concerts in the center’s auditorium.

The change is primarily a visual one: The school will be built in phases, and if the fine arts center was left where it was, there would have been a “large space” between the main office area and the core academics side of the building.

“People need to see promise with phases,” Brown said.

The school will be built in three phases and financed by a series of bond issues, the first of which was passed in April 2007.

Finally, the media center will be closer to the core classroom area of the building to provide easier access in a more academic setting.

No boundary lines have been drawn yet for the new high school, set to open in 2010 and to educate only ninth-graders in that first year. Over time, other grades will be added. The new school will ultimately have four grades — a likelihood for Hickman, Rock Bridge and Douglass high schools.

Brown said parents are eager to know the boundary lines for the high school. Beginning in September, the Secondary Enrollment Planning Committee will begin work on the new school boundaries.

No blueprint for the school is done. However, conceptual plans are available on the Columbia Public Schools’ Web site,, and Brown said plans for phase one construction on the new high school will be posted soon.

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