Update: Columbia School Board approves funding for online courses, Career Center addition

Tuesday, September 15, 2009 | 1:05 p.m. CDT; updated 2:51 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Columbia School Board voted 5-2 in favor of a budget amendment on the use of Title I money. An earlier version of this story had an incorrect vote count.

COLUMBIA — In a meeting that lasted more than four hours Monday evening, the Columbia School Board approved three amendments to the district's 2009-10 budget.

The board also approved a construction bid for an addition to the Columbia Area Career Center.

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The budget amendments up for discussion included the use of additional revenue generated from a 4.25-cent property tax increase recently approved by the board to boost teacher salaries as well as how to allocate federal stimulus dollars from Title II-D and Title I funding.

The tax increase will allow for a $700,000 increase to the district's teachers fund. Board members voted unanimously in favor of the amendment to use $610,000 to augment teachers' salaries and $90,000 for teacher educational credit benefits. 

Another amendment addressed allocation of $99,000 in Title II-D grant funding. Sally Beth Lyon, chief academic officer for the district, said the primary purpose of the Title II-D Enhancing Education Through Technology program is to improve student academic achievement through the incorporation of technology in curriculum, teacher instruction, professional development and assessment.

Lyon said the School Board will do that by offering online courses to high school students. The Title II-D funding will cover the cost of online classes, course forms and equipment such as computers and wireless connection, she said.

Unlike the other two amendments, which were approved unanimously, board members voted 5-2 to approve using $788,000 in Title I funding for several purposes. Intended to aid school districts and schools that have a significant percentage of students from low-income families, the money, like the Title II-D money, is part of a larger pot of stimulus money. The Title II-D money has to be used within one year and the Title I money within two years.

“The big ideas for the Title I funding would include the expansion of early childhood classrooms ... That would allow 90 more children into the program,” Lyon said. “The second big idea for Title I funding would allow for more professional development, literacy materials and supplies for Columbia’s six Title I elementary schools."

However, a portion of the amendment about a literacy program, Literacy by Design, was pulled for future discussion.

Lyon said Columbia Title I elementary schools include West Boulevard, Field, Benton, Parkade, Derby Ridge and Blue Ridge.

At Monday's meeting, the School Board unanimously voted to accept a $2.15 million construction bid from River City Construction in Ashland for an addition to the Columbia Area Career Center.

According to board documents, the state has provided the school district with $5.3 million for the project as part of a 50-50 match in funding.

Also according to information from board members, funds spent on the initial Career Center addition and equipment upgrades made before the 2008-09 school year will be reimbursed through the district’s match. Phase I of the expansion would include classrooms for subjects such as culinary arts, marketing and health. The addition would also consist of a computer lab, storage units, a records room and offices.




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