School Board discusses details for nature school

Monday, March 10, 2014 | 10:01 p.m. CDT; updated 6:16 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, March 11, 2014

*An earlier version of this article misspelled board member Darin Preis' name.

COLUMBIA — The Columbia School Board discussed Monday the costs, security and disabilities access for the proposed nature-based school.

Peter Stiepleman, assistant superintendent for elementary education, told the board that plans are in the work to partner with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources to build the school. The board will vote on officially partnering with the department and continuing with building plans at its April 14 meeting.

If the board approves the partnership, the nature school would be built in Rock Bridge Memorial State Park and hold 100 fifth-grade students in four classrooms. Students would take all the same assessments that other district fifth-graders take, Stiepleman said.

The school is projected to open in August 2015, and the district is planning to break ground for it this summer. The Department of Natural Resources would own the school building, but it would allow Columbia Public Schools to use the building during the school year.

The Department of Natural Resources has discussed using the building for summer programs directed at Columbia youth. However, Stiepleman said if the department chooses not to use the building over the summer, he would like to see Columbia Public Schools use the space for another summer school program.

The project is expected to cost $1.2 million with one-third of the total paid by Columbia Public Schools.

Board members expressed concern about student safety in a public park. Stiepleman said that the school would be locked just like other district schools, and the district would work with the Department of Natural Resources to make sure safety measures were in place.

The school would comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, Stiepleman said.

"A lot of people will be drawn to this," board member Darin Preis* said.

Superintendent search

Board president Christine King announced Wednesday that the search for a new superintendent had been narrowed to two finalists: Stiepleman and Dred Scott.

A meet-and-greet and moderated Q-and-A session with the candidates will be held from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Neil C. Aslin Administration Building, 1818 W. Worley St.

Each candidate will meet with the public for about an hour and answer five questions that have been selected from approximately 60 to 70 submissions.

The board will meet on Thursday evening in a closed session to discuss the candidates and members will cast their final vote on whom to hire.

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