School district purchases land next to Battle High for new elementary school

Friday, September 16, 2011 | 2:07 p.m. CDT; updated 4:37 p.m. CDT, Friday, September 16, 2011
Columbia Public Schools has negotiated to buy 32 acres for $1.5 million for a new elementary school site. It is in northeastern Columbia, just north of the site of Battle High School on St. Charles Road.

COLUMBIA — Columbia Public Schools has negotiated buying 32 acres for $1.5 million for a new elementary school. The site in northeastern Columbia is just north of where Battle High School is being built on St. Charles Road.

Next steps include selecting an architectural team and assembling a planning committee to provide input about the construction and design of the new building, according to a release from the district Friday.

The property is being purchased from St. Charles Road Development, the same group that sold the district the land for Battle High School in 2007.

The elementary school, the district's 20th, is scheduled to open in August 2015.

The Columbia School Board met in a closed session Monday to decide between two sites recommended in May by the Elementary Site Selection Committee. The board picked the property next to Battle over one farther west on Brown School Road near the Missouri 763 junction.

That 52-acre site was for sale by Tom Bass for $5.5 million, district spokeswoman Michelle Baumstark said. Almost 12 acres were unusable because they are on a protected stream buffer, Baumstark said.

As part of the purchase agreement, St. Charles Road Development will pay for the completion of Battle Drive on the northern edge of the property and the extension of utility services such as gas, water, sewer and electric, the release stated.

"The location of the property, as well as the major infrastructure pieces being in place prior to the start of construction, were important considerations in the decision to purchase this property," Superintendent Chris Belcher said in the release.

The agreement also includes what the district is calling a $500,000 charitable contribution from the St. Charles group that will go toward construction of a gymnasium at Hickman High School. That money will be paid in a lump sum to the district upon closure of the purchase agreement in July 2012, Baumstark said. 

All elements of the agreement, including road construction and extension of the utilities, must be completed before payment of the donation is made to the district.

Money for the new property is coming from the 2010 bond issue. The district maintained that a new elementary school is needed to ease crowding in other schools.

The district employed RSP and Associates to do a survey that projected where growth will be during the next five years. The firm found that areas of the city projected to grow are the north, northeast, east and southwest, city Planning and Development Director Tim Teddy told the Missourian in April.

The Elementary Site Selection Committee used this data to set its priorities, the most important being location, committee chairwoman Pam Conway said before the board made its decision.

“We certainly wanted to make sure the next school will be in a position where it will serve the community best,” Conway said.

The new site will likely draw students from Alpha Hart Lewis, Two Mile Prairie and possibly Cedar Ridge elementary schools. This will be determined and finalized by a separate committee in the near future, Conway said.

In March, Conway's committee was looking at four sites when Tom Bass came forward with the property on Brown School Road. The committee then whittled the list to two. But at the time of the May school board meeting, not enough particulars were available about the Bass site.

"They both equally support the community expansion and growth needs," Conway said recently about the sites. However, she said the Bass site was not ready for construction — the St. Charles site is.

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