COLUMBIA — This looks like a college campus. It even smells new. Are high schools really this pretty?
Future Battle High School juniors shared their excitement as they stepped off their buses from Rock Bridge and Hickman high schools and embarked on the first student tour of Battle, located at 7575 E. St. Charles Road.
About 70 students spent an hour touring the building and football field, and 200 more students will take a tour on Thursday and Friday, Battle principal Kim Presko said. These students, currently sophomores, represent the first graduating class of Battle, which will open for summer school June 3.
"This is my first time inside," Rock Bridge sophomore Thiago Ciarlini said. "I'll be taking biology and geometry summer classes, and I'm excited to be here now."
As Presko introduced the tour, she first reminded students whom the school was named after.
"Muriel Battle was a pioneer in this community, along with her husband, Eliot," Presko said. "They were instrumental in desegregating Columbia schools. We're proud of our name."
Key stops on the tour included the band and choir rooms, performing arts center, gym, classroom wings and outside facilities.
After seeing the performing arts center, which seats 750, Hickman sophomore Kyra Moss said she was excited to participate in Battle's first musical.
"I didn't want to leave Hickman because of the traditions they have in theater," Moss said. "But Battle will be here for forever, and I want to be remembered. I want to help create traditions, so people won't want to leave Battle."
Students also toured career center spaces, or classrooms dedicated to career-focused courses, including culinary arts, welding, engineering, digital media and broadcast journalism.
Hickman sophomore Shirey Samuels said she has always wanted to be a chef, and she will take her first culinary class at Battle.
"After high school, I want to go to Le Cordon Bleu culinary arts school in St. Louis," Samuels said. "I want to always be able to come back to Battle and be, like, this is where it started."
Samuels and Moss had visited Battle before, as members of the Spartan Leadership Team. This select group of future Battle students will help establish a Battle culture, Samuels said.
"We talk a lot about creating our own traditions, not borrowing from Rock Bridge and Hickman," Samuels said. "We're making our own Battle family. We get to decide what we want Battle to be."
The goal of the tours is to connect each student to the school in a way that creates excitement, Battle assistant principal Andrew McCarthy said. Tours for middle school students will occur in May.
"We can plan and involve the kids all we want, but actually getting them here, that's what we've been waiting for," said McCarthy, currently an assistant principal at Hickman. "We want to connect each kid to something that gets them excited to go beyond just high school."
Other key points from the tour include:
- About 1,100 students will attend Battle in the fall, and a projected 1,500 will attend in 2014-2015. The capacity is 1,850.
- Battle has four classroom wings, each with 19 educational spaces.
- The cafeteria holds 500 students, and three lunch shifts are planned for next year. Freshman and sophomores are required to stay on campus for lunch, but juniors and seniors can leave.
- The building is completely wireless, and administration is looking into purchasing iPad minis for students to use as textbooks.
- Athletic facilities include baseball and softball fields, eight tennis courts, practice football and soccer fields and a football stadium that seats 4,300. The competition gym seats about 1,800.
- At 300,000 square feet of space, Battle is comparable in size to Rock Bridge and Hickman with their new additions.
- Battle has 85 acres of land. Hickman sits on about 40 acres, and Rock Bridge on 50.
The word students used most often to describe their first impression of Battle was "big." Hickman sophomore Rebecca Wofford said that when she first saw it, she was worried about the size and didn't think she would like it.
"I really didn't imagine it being this nice," Wofford said. "Once I saw that view of the football field from the cafeteria, I thought, wow, this is going to be really cool."
Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.