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Columbia's high school group returns with ideas after KC visit

Friday, July 27, 2007 | 6:27 p.m. CDT; updated 6:43 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, October 28, 2008

By EMILY VAN ZANDT

COLUMBIA — Members of Columbia’s High School Construction Steering Committee returned from visiting two Kansas City schools with a lot of design ideas for the city’s third comprehensive high school.

The 18-member committee met today to discuss the July 19 visit to Lee’s Summit West and Turner high schools and came up with the following goals for the new high school, set to be built near Range Line and New Haven roads five miles east of U.S. 63.

They include

* the ability for teacher collaboration, including teacher planning centers.

* a focus on a variety of learning environments for small and large group activities.

* increased technology throughout the building.

* an emphasis on safety and security.

* building aesthetics that will be sustainable, that reflect the community and that blend with adjacent structures.

* windows in classrooms, natural lighting and display areas for student work.

Committee member Sarah Read said the design of the buildings made it clear the communities they were in cared about children and learning.

“There were so many resources for the kids to learn,” Read said. “It was well-equipped and had lots of space for community involvement and learning.”

Read also appreciated how the designs managed to incorporate the natural landscape of the area and used natural lighting to give them a more environmentally friendly feel, things she hopes are integrated into the design for the new Columbia high school.

For Wanda Brown, assistant superintendent and committee chairwoman, it will be essential for the building and campus to be something comfortable and functional for students.

“Faculty and staff may want to consider a closed campus for lunch,” Brown said during the meeting. “If that’s the case, we need a place for kids to socialize.”

Brown also said the building should be one that students can be excited to attend. “Students should feel comfortable and also proud of their school,” she said. “It will be large, but it needs to be designed so that students won’t have to negotiate the entire building to get to a class.”

Eventually, the new high school will include ninth-graders, who under the city’s current configuration attend junior high schools. Committee members had concerns about helping freshmen transition into a much larger school.

“Ninth grade needs to be included but protected from the responsibilities and freedoms of the upperclassmen,” said Brown. “They might have a separate area that they spend most of the day in, but then leave to go to extracurriculars and lunch.”

The committee will meet again in September, although no date has been set. The public can look at photographs of the schools visited at the district’s Web site, columbia.k12.mo.us.


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