Columbia officials plan park to accompany new high school

Thursday, August 27, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — City and school officials added a dimension to plans for Columbia’s next public high school: putting a community park near the campus.

Talk of the high school occurred Wednesday morning when representatives of the City Council, Boone County Commission and Columbia Public Schools met at the Roger B. Wilson Boone County Government Center for a quarterly meeting.

“It’s a city tradition to find property around a new school for a neighborhood park,” City Manager Bill Watkins said.

The idea is to maximize both school and community use of the area. Officials are searching for 15 to 20 acres close to the high school, Watkins said. The location for the school, on St. Charles Road in the northeast part of the district, was approved in November 2007 by the Columbia School Board.

“Everything is going well; everyone is working well together,” Superintendent Chris Belcher said of the project. “It’s a good property.”

The current plan hinges on passage of a $120 million bond issue that might go before voters in an April 2010 election, said Sally Beth Lyon, chief academic officer for the district. In addition to $20 million of a $60 million bond approved by voters in 2007 for the new high school project, the vote in 2010 would provide the money necessary for the construction of the high school.

Money from the bond issue would also go toward new gymnasiums for Rock Bridge and Hickman high schools and the installation of air conditioning units at several elementary schools still without them.

Whether to put the bond issue on the ballot will be decided by December at the latest, Belcher said. If it passes, the hope is to break ground for the high school in the summer of 2010. The project is set for a 30-month trajectory with the high school opening in 2013.

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