New elementary school could cause redistricting

Thursday, October 11, 2007 | 10:30 p.m. CDT; updated 9:14 a.m. CDT, Friday, October 31, 2008

COLUMBIA — The construction of Columbia’s new elementary school could cause the redistricting of five other elementary schools, school officials said Thursday.

Blue Ridge, Lee and Field elementary schools would send students to the yet-to-be-named elementary school; students who live north of Interstate 70 and attend Shepard Boulevard or Cedar Ridge will also most likely be affected.

At an open forum Thursday, Don Ludwig, chairman of the Elementary Enrollment Planning Committee, said Columbia School District wants to create boundaries that reflect the Columbia public school community while still paying close attention to the time students spend on buses.

“The hardest part will be to determine the potential growth of the area,” Ludwig said.

In May 2008, the committee will make its recommendation for new school boundaries to the school board. Parents are encouraged to attend upcoming committee meetings and express their opinions. The committee will form its transportation plan for redistricting in March 2008.

Since the school isn’t projected to open until the start of the 2009-10 school year, today’s third-graders and below will populate the new school. If students are located within the new school’s boundaries but are in fifth grade, Ludwig said that they would be allowed to stay at their original school. Third- and fourth-graders could also continue to attend their original school, but transportation would only be provided for one year.

Ludwig added that if a fifth-grader wanted to try out the brand new school but missed his or her friends, there would be some flexibility.

The new school will be built near Brown Station on Waco Road in northeast Columbia. The project’s $18.8 million price — including site development, the construction of the building, equipment and furniture — will be covered by the $60 million bond issue that Columbia residents voted on in April. The 20-acre site is located in the Villages of Arbor Pointe subdivision, which is still being developed.

The projected extension of Waco Road from Brown Station to Oakland Gravel Road will provide the primary street access to the school, but the quality and width of other nearby roadways worried some parents. Jeanie Phipps has two children — one in second grade and another in kindergarten. She owns a lot at Arbor Pointe and is considering moving, which would put her within the boundaries for the new school. Phipps said she used to drive her children to school on Brown Station Road, and she called the narrow road “dangerous.”

Blue Ridge parent Tim Rainey also said that area roads aren’t in the best condition.

“The buses are going to tear those roads to pieces,” he said.

Rainey said he hopes the new school is as diverse as Blue Ridge because he likes his children to be exposed to diversity.

The DLR Group of Kansas City, which has done work for the school district before, is the architecture and engineering firm hired to design the new school. Jack Jensen, assistant Superintendent of Elementary Education, said the firm is in the process of completing its design plans. Construction is expected to take place between March and June 2009.

The next forum will meet at Shepard Boulevard Elementary School at 7 p.m. Tuesday. For a complete schedule of meetings, go to the Columbia Public Schools’ Web site.

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