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Neighbors-to-be of Battle High School elated, worried

Wednesday, December 15, 2010 | 11:15 a.m. CST; updated 9:39 a.m. CST, Thursday, December 16, 2010
The footprint for the new Muriel Williams Battle High School takes shape along St. Charles Road in this aerial image taken Oct. 23. Battle, along with her husband, Eliot, served Columbia's community for many years and were two individuals instrumental in the integration of Columbia's schools.

COLUMBIA — In a yellow house across from what will be Muriel Williams Battle High School, Melanie Abernathy watches the construction and waits for the morning she'll hear the band practicing.

"I love to hear the band," Abernathy said.

Abernathy and her husband, James, own the St. Charles Road property across from the grounds of the incoming high school. Although it means changes for the neighborhood, Abernathy said she and her husband have been excited since they found out the land was being considered for the school in 2007.

Sometimes, Abernathy walks the grounds, pausing to think about what will be built where she stands — a classroom here, an athletic field there.

"You can stand in one spot and see just about everything," Abernathy said.

Where students will study and a football team will play, cattle and horses used to roam. A farmer owned the land, and Abernathy has pictures of what it looked like with barns and livestock.

"The new calves would just play and play and play," she recalled.

The farmer left before the site was reviewed for a school. Abernathy said developers bought the land to use for subdivisions, and after the farmer agreed to a payment, he packed up his possessions, took his animals and left. The transformation from farm to empty site happened within a weekend, she said.

"I said, 'Jim, the cows are gone,'" Abernathy said she told her husband one day. "All of a sudden there was no life over there any more."

She looks forward to being part of the new life when the school opens in August 2013. Although she won't have children at Battle High, she plans to volunteer. She volunteered at Two Mile Prairie Elementary and Lange Middle School while her sons were in school.

"There's going to be a whole lot of life," Abernathy said.

Goodbye, country

For Dolsha Martin, who moved to the neighborhood for the country setting, the new school might be too much of a change. Her daughter will be a freshman when Battle opens, but that doesn't mean the family will stay in the neighborhood.

"I think it's really going to take away from the country setting, and, more than likely, drive me away," she said.

As Martin sees it, a high school could lead to other additions to the neighborhood.

"If the high school comes, what else is going to come?" Martin said. "Are we going to be next to a McDonald's next?"

Parking could become an issue, Martin said. She doesn't want students to park in the residential area, and if parking is not regulated well, her family will be even more likely to move to a different part of town.

Others see the proximity as a perk even if it alters the surroundings.

Eric Stauffacher, another resident, said that although the school will change the country atmosphere, he supports it.

"It'll make the property value go up a lot more," Stauffacher said.

Fun for friends

To some of the neighborhood kids, the value is in their shortened commute.

Kim Sommers, 13, and Brittany Wells, 11, are eager to walk to school. Brittany will be part of the first freshman class, and like the majority of the district's sixth-graders, she voted for the Spartans to be the school mascot. The attendance boundaries have not been established, but both girls expect to attend Battle High.

"My mom doesn't have to be concerned about the weather," Kim said. "I can get up to school if it's snowy before I get frostbite and if it's rainy before I get soaked."

As they waited for the school bus to bring the rest of the neighborhood kids home, they said living close to school will be fun for the group.

"You can walk with your friends to school," Kim said.

"Instead of driving alone," Brittany added.

Battling traffic

Although neighboring residents will not have to drive to school, Battle High will bring traffic from other parts of town. That's a common concern among residents.

Beth Edmiston, a mother of three, said, "A lot of us are concerned with traffic — how it's going to flow."

Bob Altman, a new resident, said he didn't like the occasional power outages that have happened since construction started, and the noise can be "annoying." But when it comes to future traffic, he wonders what will happen.

"Traffic's going to be a whole different issue," Altman said.

For Abernathy, the traffic will probably be "more of a challenge," and she hopes changes to roads won't affect her front yard. Still, she is eager for the school to open.

"I wish it would open sooner," Abernathy said.


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Comments

Bill Fisher December 16, 2010 | 3:50 a.m.

If you're looking for a quiet country setting, anywhere within 5 miles of Columbia's borders should probably be avoided. I understand how people want to stay close enough to the city to have a convenient drive in, yet far enough away to be away from the masses. However, Columbia is growing extremely fast nowadays, so you really need to move a lot further out. I say bring on the growth, though. Columbia has been a bit dull over the last 10 years, and I wouldn't mind a huge growth spurt, so long as the city can keep up with the roads.

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