New gym plans unveiled for Columbia high schools

Monday, November 8, 2010 | 11:02 p.m. CST; updated 11:36 p.m. CST, Monday, November 8, 2010

COLUMBIA — Although Rock Bridge and Hickman High Schools are both getting new gyms, Hickman's renovations go further.

Conceptual designs show Hickman High School’s gym building will include space for replacement vocational classrooms and improvements to the bleachers by the football field. Chris Davis of Peckham and Wright Architects presented designs to the School Board at its Monday night meeting.

School Board votes

  • Columbia’s new high school will be Muriel Williams Battle High School. The board voted unanimously in favor of the name.
  • $6,467,850 in general obligation qualified school construction bonds were approved for sale. The board voted unanimously.
  • The summer school schedule was amended so it will be a 20-day session rather than a 24-day session. The session is now scheduled to finish before July 4. The board voted unanimously in favor.
  • The board approved a contract with RnB Learning LLC for summer school operational services. The board voted unanimously in favor.

The two high schools hold sophomores, juniors and seniors. By 2013, the two schools will have freshmen as well. The new gyms are being built to help accommodate the new students.

“They just don’t have space,” said Bruce Whitesides, Columbia Public School District athletics director. “There are more students that are going to be in need of their phys-ed credits.” 

Construction hasn't started yet, but Whitesides said that he he hopes the gyms will be finished before 2013.

Aside from gym classes, space for sports practice is at a premium. Boys and girls basketball teams at both schools take turns using the current gyms for evening practices. One team gets the early practice and the other team gets the gym two hours later.

“It makes for long nights,” Whitesides said.

Although the new gyms will provide more space for sports teams, the new Hickman gym will takeover space that is now occupied by classrooms. The chosen location overlapped with the vocational tech classrooms. To compensate, the new gym building will contain space to replace those classrooms.

Hickman students will be displaced during the construction. Temporary classrooms will be in the career center, trailers, and other areas of the high school, Assistant Superintendent for Secondary Education Wanda Brown said.

The new Hickman gym will be longer to fit a 94-foot basketball court, which is the NCAA regulation length. Hickman will also get a new grandstand and press box in the football stadium.

The seating capacity will remain the same, but the renovations will replace the aging stands.

“Those facilities were almost at the point that they weren’t safe,” Superintendent Chris Belcher said. “We had to do something, and this is the right time to do it.”

The Rock Bridge gym will be added to the south wall of the current gym and will include space for locker rooms and a weight room.

The board is looking into FEMA funding in order to make the gyms approved storm shelters, Michelle Baumstark, Columbia Public Schools community relations coordinator, said. The school district will know if it's receiving funds by January, Belcher said. Plans for the gyms may have to be readjusted if the district doesn't get the money.

The new gyms will be paid for with a $125 million bond approved by voters in April, 2010. The gyms are expected to cost $7.5 million.

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