COLUMBIA — Construction on a new elementary school on the northeast side of Columbia has begun, but Columbia Public Schools still has work to do.
At its meeting on Thursday, the Columbia School Board discussed the proposed timeline for planning boundary scenarios to incorporate the new school into the district.
"We want to give families more than a year to know where they're going," Peter Stiepleman, assistant superintendent for elementary education, said.
Overcrowding is the big issue. The northeast elementary school will be located just north of Battle High School on St. Charles Road. Two schools neighboring this site, Alpha Hart Lewis and Two Mile Prairie elementary schools, are expected to be over capacity by the time the new school opens in 2015.
The districts project enrollment at Alpha Hart that year to be 680 — 30 students more than the building was designed to support. At Two Mile Prairie, enrollment would be at least 50 students over capacity. The northeast school is expected to pull students from both of these locations, Stiepleman said.
A third school near the site, Shepard Boulevard Elementary School, is also overcrowded. With a capacity of 375, enrollment numbers reached 581 for the 2013-14 school year.
The district expects that number to rise to 605 by the time the northeast elementary school opens but plans to meet enrollment with a building addition approved in the April 2012 bond issue. This addition is expected to be completed by the end of 2015.
The boundary scenarios won't be created by board members. The district will form a scenario committee of seven community representatives to discuss boundary options. This committee will include a parent from both Alpha Hart and Two Mile Prairie, three community members and Bonita Benson, an assistant principal at Paxton Keeley Elementary School.
Stiepleman presented district goals to the board that the committee will follow when planning boundary scenarios. These goals are:
- Reduce overcrowding
- Reduce bus ride time
- Reflect the composition of the community
- Allow for growth in all sites
An additional committee of support staff will provide enrollment, transportation and curriculum advice as the scenario committee deliberates boundary plans.
Stiepleman said the committee will create boundary guiding principles to share with principals and parent-teacher associations before it begins developing actual scenarios in December. The scenarios will continue to be assessed until February when the final list of options will be presented to parents and teachers at school forums.
"We'll be adding things as we go," Stiepleman said.
Stiepleman hopes to incorporate the feedback from the school forums into the committee's final presentation to the board in April. If this timeline works well, the board hopes to use the same process for future school boundary changes.
Other bond updates
In April 2012, the community approved a $50 million bond, part of which is funding renovation and construction projects in the district. The board gave updates for those projects at its meeting:
- Building improvements: The bond allocated about $14 million for upgrades and improvements to buildings in the district. Renovations to the district's Bus Barn, Lee, Ridgeway and Rock Bridge elementary schools and Jefferson Middle School will be completed within the year.
- Early Childhood Learning Center: The district will start looking at designs for an $8 million childhood learning center after the next fiscal year. If everything goes according to plan, construction will start in the summer of 2015 so the center can open in August 2017.
The meeting was held at the Neil C. Aslin District Administration Building, 1818 W. Worley St.
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