Columbia School Board postpones Walking School Bus contract decision

Monday, September 9, 2013 | 11:17 p.m. CDT; updated 12:07 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, September 10, 2013

*CORRECTION: The board voted 4-3 to table a decision about the Walking School Bus contract.

COLUMBIA — Columbia elementary school students can't use Walking School Bus routes just yet.

The Columbia Public School board postponed voting on funding the Walking School Bus program at its meeting Monday.

The school board discussed establishing a $57,000 contract with PedNet Coalition to continue the Walking School Bus program. It had been funded independently by grants in the past, but those funds are no longer available.

DECISION: In a 4-3 decision, the board voted to table its decision until further notice to allow more time for revising the contract with the PedNet Coalition. Some board members said they would prefer for the program to be completely under Columbia Public School District's jurisdiction and would like more time to review program funding.

*Board members Christine King, Tom Rose and Jan Mees voted against tabling the decision.

OVERVIEW: A contract with PedNet Coalition would include a $45,402 administrative contract and an additional $11,589 stipend to pay for eight teachers to work overtime as school liaisons. No funds have been set aside for the program at this point.

PUBLIC COMMENTS: Fourteen community members spoke for and against the district funding the program at the meeting.

Advocates of funding the program said that PedNet Coalition would provide a safe, viable option for elementary school students trying to get to class that could later be adjusted to fit a program run by the School District.

Hiring an outside organization to manage the program, however, was a concern of those against approving a contract.

Construction bid for new elementary school

DECISION: The board also approved K&S Construction's $13.5 million proposed construction bid for the new elementary school in northeast Columbia.

St. Louis-based K&S Construction completed renovations to the Daniel Boone City Building as well as a recent elementary school project in St. Louis.

OVERVIEW: The district approved the building of its 21st elementary school in April 2010 with the passage of a $120 million bond issue. Land acquisition, construction, furnishing, equipment and technology costs are included in the $18.85 million allocated to the new school.

Eleven construction bids from companies based in Missouri and Illinois were considered for the new elementary school, the lowest of which was from K&S Construction.

Completion of the new school is set for July 2015.

The redistricting process has yet to take place for the estimated 600 students who will attend the school.

ADDITIONAL: The school board also approved the district naming committee for the northeast elementary school. Committee members will be:

  • Karla DeSpain, former school board member;
  • Demarko Coleman, member of the Minority Men's Network and Kiwanis board member;
  • Lenny Sanchez, MU assistant professor of education;
  • Carole Garth, New Haven Elementary School principal;
  • Jacquie Ward, Shepard Boulevard Elementary School principal.

Other decisions

  • The board approved the $2.6 million bid by C.L. Richardson of Ashland, which will begin construction on the district’s transportation facility site. The facility renovation, funded by the 2012 capital projects bond, will include stormwater compliance measures, security fences, lighting, two new entrances and fuel tank replacement. The current city fuel tanks were installed in 1974.

  • The board approved an employee benefit plan design and rate changes. These changes include adding more providers for employee counseling services, instituting domestic partnership coverage and changing first and last day insurance coverage dates to meet statewide health insurance regulations. The board also increased the dental plan premium for the first time in three years, raising the monthly charge from $25 to $27.

  • The board approved district-requested policy changes for workers' compensation, time schedules, leaves and absences, administration of medication to students and allergy prevention and response. The changes, funded by district operating funds, were made to increase reader clarity and policy consistency.
  • The board approved the district's property and general liability insurance proposal and suggested automobile fleet insurance costs. The changes will require a budget increase of $190,000 to cover the plan's $246,154 increase in annual cost of insurance coverages.

Special recognition

The board also recognized Hickman High School biology teacher Pamela Close for winning the 2013 Outstanding Biology Teacher for Missouri award, presented by the National Association of Biology Teachers. The organization chooses one teacher from every state to receive the award each year.

Close, who has taught at Hickman High School since 1994, has instructed more than 2,000 students in biological sciences.

Supervising editor is Zachary Matson.

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