COLUMBIA- A local businessman has stepped up his efforts to get a new high school in north Columbia.
“I needed to do something for these kids,” he said. “These are the people that supported me.”
In a letter sent to the Columbia School Board on Friday, George Godas increased his offer of land to 80 acres. In 2005, he offered the district 40 to 50 acres, but the offer was rejected. Godas said if he had known how much land the district needed, he would have offered it immediately.
“If they had told me, I would have made the offer as long as they put a school there,” he said.
The 212-acre property, located half a mile north of Interstate 70 on Route Z, would include the school, a park and a residential area, Godas said. It is an alternative to the 80-acre site already approved by the school district for the new high school at New Haven and Rangeline roads.
In June, the school board approved the latter site, donated by Turner Vemer. That decision prompted the objections of Columbia residents, who want the new high school built in the quickly developing north Columbia area.
In his first proposal, Godas said that he had specified only that a school could be built on that site, while Phyllis Chase, superintendent of Columbia Public Schools, said the site was offered specifically for an elementary school.
In this new proposal, Godas has specified that the site must be used for a high school. His reasons, he said, are based on a need to help his community of northern Columbia.
“We need a high school in this area, (students) do not need to travel nine miles,” Godas said of the distance north Columbia students would have to travel to the proposed high school site in south Columbia.
The desire to re-examine the location of a new high schoolwas evident on Aug. 6 at a City Council work session before its regular meeting. At the session, Third Ward City Councilman Karl Skala said there was talk of “a paucity of acceptable sites (that) were available.” Those present at the meeting included the City Council, Chase and Karla DeSpain, president of the school board.
“We have said repeatedly we will consider every offer,” DeSpain said on Tuesday.
Skala said Tuesday that there is a need for more public participation in the next steps of this process.
“I hope the school board will now bring the rest of the public into the reconsideration of the potential sites,” he said.
Chase said on Tuesday there will be “a process by which the board gets input on the value and desirability of the site through increased public participation.”
Godas said he simply wants to give back to the community that has meant so much to him.
“It makes me feel good to support the community who has supported me for almost 30 years,” he said.