COLUMBIA — Concerns about construction timelines and traffic were among those voiced by residents of the Thornbrook Subdivision about the building of an elementary school in southwest Columbia.
The school, which has not yet been named, is scheduled to open for the 2016-17 school year on the northwest corner of Route KK and Scott Boulevard.
This week, representatives of Columbia Public Schools, civil engineers and architects answered questions and received feedback from Thornbrook residents at the Thornbrook Clubhouse. The school will be in the Thornbrook Subdivision.
"I think it's going to be great. I can't find any negatives for it," said Ginny Northcutt, who has lived in Thornbrook for five years. "The only thing is that we want to make sure that the roads can handle the addition of traffic. That's the biggest concern I have."
Traffic was the biggest concern raised by residents. It also has been the biggest focus of the school planners, said Tom Trabue, a civil engineer with Trabue, Hansen and Hinshaw, at the gathering Wednesday evening. Trabue said they did a study of traffic around Mill Creek Elementary School to help guide their process.
A proposed roundabout at the intersection of Scott Boulevard and Route KK would relieve some of the congestion, Trabue said. A separate bus loop and parent pick-up and drop-off zones also would cut down on traffic jams and increase the safety of the students, he said.
Other residents said they are concerned that overcrowding will become a problem at the new school, which is largely being built to address overcrowding at Mill Creek and other nearby elementary schools. Although plans are not finalized, the school is expected to hold 650 students, which is about 200 fewer students than Mill Creek has right now.
Deputy Superintendent for Columbia Public Schools Nick Boren told residents that research has found the ideal school population is 650 students.
The city of Columbia is in the midst of expanding Scott Boulevard. However, phase three of the project, which includes the intersection of Scott and Route KK, has no firm timeline yet. The city's website states that "planning and design for phase three from Vawter School Road to Route KK is well underway, with construction anticipated to start in 2016."
Residents are worried that the road construction will not be done before the school opens and will limit access to the school.
"All understand the importance of the improvements along Scott Boulevard being done prior to the opening of the school," Boren said in an interview before the meeting.
Thornbrook resident Mary Pfitzinger said the traffic situation at Mill Creek now is a challenge. "I have to deal with that car line every day, and it's kind of a nightmare," she said. "I am concerned about putting access to the school directly through our neighborhood. I'm concerned about traffic and safety, and I'm also concerned about Scott Boulevard and that it's not going to be finished."
Under the plans for the new school, there will be more spaces available for picking up and dropping off students than Mill Creek has; Mill Creek has room for about 20 cars, and the new school will have 60, district spokeswoman Michelle Baumstark said.
Feedback forms were available for residents to address three issues: having an alternate entrance off Route KK, having a definite boundary between the neighborhood and the school and not using Thornbrook Parkway — which cuts through the neighborhood — as a drop-off and pick-up zone.
Proposed plans for the school feature a playground, kickball and four square courts, as well as a walking track, Trabue said. Other features include a 230-space parking lot with an extra 130 spaces available for after-school and evening events.
The district bought the property in October for $2.8 million from the Sapp Family.
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