School board to discuss Mill Creek Elementary overcrowding

Sunday, October 13, 2013 | 2:00 a.m. CDT

COLUMBIA —  The Columbia School Board is expected to discuss possible solutions to the overcrowding problem at Mill Creek Elementary School during its meeting Monday evening.

Mill Creek, which was built to hold 700 students, has been overcrowded for years. This year, official enrollment numbers put the school at 865 students — enough over capacity that the school added two additional trailers this year to meet building code guidelines.

Although the district had planned to stem Mill Creek's growing enrollment needs by opening a school on the southwest side of town, the recent housing boom on the south side of town has pushed enrollment numbers higher than expected. Now, Mill Creek needs an interim plan to hold it over until the new southwest elementary school opens in August 2016, district spokeswoman Michelle Baumstark said.

Mill Creek's Parent-Teacher Association met with the PTA from Rock Bridge Elementary School on Sept. 26 to brainstorm possible overcrowding solutions for their schools.

"There are some pretty creative ideas on that list of possibilities. Some may be more feasible than others," Baumstark said.

Peter Stiepleman, assistant superintendent of elementary education, will provide a list of possible solutions for Mill Creek overcrowding for the board's consideration at Monday's meeting.

These ideas include:

  • Creating temporary boundary solutions to put in place until the southwest elementary school opens
  • Implementing half-day kindergarten to decrease enrollment numbers
  • Finding an offsite kindergarten academy to house all kindergarten classes

The board plans to review these ideas and ask for action on one of them at its December meeting. Until then, it plans to keep an open mind and wait for community feedback before making a decision, Baumstark said.

At the meeting on Monday, school board president Christine King will also give an update on the status of the land search for the southwest school.

School buses

Board members are also expected to vote on transportation options for the 2014-15 school year. The district's contract with First Student expires June 30, 2014. In the original contract, the board had the option to extend for two one-year periods.

The board has the option to:

  • Extend the First Student contract one year with a 2.5 percent increase of the base contract, approximately $250,000
  • Develop a three- to five-year contract with First Student for transportation services
  • Extend the First Student contract one year and conduct an in-house study on district transportation operations

Other items up for vote:

  • The adjusted policy amendments allowing the addition of medical and dental coverage for domestic partners of district employees — The board approved the addition of domestic partnership benefits during its September meeting. These benefits extend health coverage to couples living together for at least one year in a marriage-like relationship.
  • A $600 stipend for math club coaches in each of the eight Title I elementary schools participating in a district-wide math competition this year — Fourth- and fifth-grade students will meet with coaches in after-school sessions between October and March. The total combined cost of the stipends is $5,566, which includes benefits. Disbursement of the stipend among coaches would be left to the discretion of each participating school.
  • Purchasing the ST Math program from the Mind Research Institute for Title I schools — The program is an instructional software designed for elementary school students that uses visual learning tools to boost math proficiency. The initial cost of the program would be $214,000 and have an additional $3,000 cost per school year. The program would be funded with Title I funds and allocated funds from the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
  • A stormwater covenant between the district and the city of Columbia for the new northeast elementary school — The covenant would require an onsite stormwater management facility to be constructed, operated and maintained by the district. The district would be expected to adhere to maintenance schedules and procedures designated by the city in compliance with city ordinances.
  • An easement contract with Boone Electric Cooperative for the northeast elementary school — The contract would allow space for electricity structures and future repairs on those structures.

The board meeting is at 6:30 p.m. Monday in the Neil C. Aslin District Administration Building, 1818 W. Worley St.

Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.

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