Columbia schools gain funds

Residents approved a public school bond to help fund repairs and construction.
Wednesday, April 7, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 7:10 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 6, 2008

Leaky roofs and other maintenance problems will begin to be repaired right away in the Columbia Public School District with the passage of a $22.5 million bond issue in Tuesday’s election.

The bond issue required 57 percent of the vote to approve extending the district’s debt payment for another three years to fund construction, maintenance and equipment. The bond issue received 10,181 votes, or 69.6 percent of the vote.

Superintendent Phyllis Chase said components of the maintenance portion of the issue — the largest portion of the bond at $7.3 million — can be addressed right away. She predicted new construction wouldn’t begin until next school year or in the first months of 2006.

“This bond issue was important because while the district focuses on teaching and learning, we also want to ensure Columbia continues to have a quality learning space,” Chase said. “I think Columbia has shown they realize education is important.”

Cheryll Stone, 83, a retired teacher, voted for the bond issue and said she gets perturbed with people who ignore school needs.

“I know a lot of people think we spend too much on schools and we do too much for our students, but I don’t,” Stone

said. “Even though I’ve been retired a long time, I feel responsible for our students.”

School board candidate Henry Lane, whose platform included his strong opposition to the bond and lowering property taxes, lost for the sixth time Tuesday. He was disappointed that the bond issue passed but not surprised.

“I guess that was expected,” Lane said.

Karla DeSpain, an incumbent winner, was glad that the bond passed.

“The district needs that to continue what it has been doing,” DeSpain said.

School administrators were most concerned about maintenance and renovation of current buildings, more than half of which are at least 40 years old. Restroom renovations and window and roof replacements make up most of the maintenance plans.

About $6.9 million will go to the construction of new facilities, such as classrooms and attaining new land in the district.

For example:

N The Columbia Area Career Center will receive $4 million for new laboratories and classrooms.

N Mill Creek Elementary School will get eight classroomsworth of space, some of which will be used as a media center.

N The district will use $1.2 million to start acquiring land for a fourth high school and a new elementary school.

The rest of the bond money will go toward equipment, such as upgrading fire alarms and curricular support, which includes specialized equipment for programs.

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