Dr. Phyllis Chase has confirmed that there are no specific acreage requirements for a new high school, whose location is to be decided soon, even though 80 acres has been widely discussed in connection with the project.
A smaller and more central site where, say, 10 percent of students live within one mile and 50 percent live within four miles, would have many benefits:
• Reduced maintenance costs
• Reduced transportation (busing) costs
• Increased walking and biking by students
• Daily exercise and better classroom focus for students
• Reduced air pollution and congestion around school
• Reduced need for parking space (making smaller lot more feasible)
• Reduced carbon emissions
At a time of rising child and adolescent obesity, rising fuel costs, climate change, and crumbling road and bridge infrastructure, it would make sense to locate the new school close to the students it will serve, and to emphasize the use of nonmotorized modes. Further, the city of Columbia’s federally funded “PedNet Project” creates the opportunity to select a site that will connect the school to the growing network of sidewalks, bike lanes and trails.
Hickman High School has 35 acres, Rock Bridge High School (including Gentry Middle School and the Career Center) has 72 acres and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s acreage formula yields 50 acres for a 2,000-student school. Compact, multistory buildings, efficient use of athletic space, and a reasonably sized parking lot could all contribute to the design of a top-quality high school on a smaller lot located within a medium-density residential area.