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Three potential sites selected for new southwest Columbia elementary school

Tuesday, January 22, 2013 | 6:58 p.m. CST; updated 5:29 p.m. CST, Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Columbia Public Schools has chosen three possible sites for the construction of the city’s newest elementary school. For the past nine months, members of the district’s Long-range Facilities Planning Committee and the Board of Education have explored land options based on location, acreage, surrounding roads and the owner’s willingness to sell. Members of the committee will tour the three sites Jan. 26.

CORRECTION: Columbia Public Schools is considering a site located at the intersection of Route K and Old Plank Road. An earlier version of the graphic incorrectly identified the location.

COLUMBIA — After a nine-month search, leaders in Columbia Public Schools announced Tuesday that three locations are being seriously considered for an elementary school on the city's southwest side.

The Long-range Facilities Planning Committee and the Columbia School Board identified the three locations: 34 acres at Scott Boulevard and Route KK; 36 acres at Route K and Old Plank Road; and 30 acres at Route K and High Point Lane. 

The school's construction, which voters approved as part of an April bond issue, was spurred forward in response to overcrowding at Rock Bridge and Mill Creek elementary schools, Superintendent Chris Belcher said.

Belcher said more than 860 students attend Mill Creek although it was built for about 700, and Rock Bridge has almost 600 although it was meant for about 480. Additionally, he said the district expects the southwest area to grow by about 200 elementary school students in the next 10 years. 

"We know based on the projection of growth and the population density in the southwest, we need to have a new school," said Christine King, chairwoman of the committee and vice president of the school board.

With the help of Columbia real estate broker John John, the committee and the board recently shaved down their list of potential sites from 14 to three based on factors including their topographies, which roads surround the sites, the ease with which the sites could be ready for construction and the locations in southwest Columbia.

The next step will take place Saturday, when a bus will cart committee members from Rock Bridge High School to each of the sites for tours, which will not be open to the public. The committee members will rank the sites based on their viability in hopes of ultimately selecting one or two of the sites to be formally evaluated by engineers. 

The committee will meet Feb. 26 to make a site recommendation to the board, which could then select an official location for the school as early as March or April, King said. Although King said this timeline is not set in stone, the district hopes to have the new elementary school open by August 2016. 

Neither King nor Belcher have heard any complaints from community members regarding the potential locations so far. Belcher said the school district plans to hold open meetings at Rock Bridge and Mill Creek elementary schools to answer citizens' questions and hear their input. 

Belcher said he expects the school will be a welcome addition to the southwest Columbia area.

"We've done our homework talking to the city and parents in the area," he said. 

Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.


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