The Columbia School Board on Monday approved John Warner Middle School as the name of its seventh middle school, which will open in fall 2020.

John Warner, who died in August, was a 35-year veteran of the Columbia Police Department. He served for 20 years as an officer of the the Drug Abuse Resistance Education, or DARE, program and was involved with students as a school resource officer for the district’s middle schools.

“He was enthusiastic,” Columbia Police Department Chief Geoff Jones said at the meeting. “He was kind and very fun to be around, highly respected in and throughout Columbia.”

Warner helped implement safety procedures and protocols to make schools safer, according to previous Missourian reporting. A member of the SWAT team, Warner also served on the Columbia City Council’s Substance Abuse Advisory Commission, the Breathe Easy Coalition and the Columbia/Boone County Senior Network. He chaired the Columbia Community 2000 Drug Free Task Force.

Jennifer Rukstad, assistant superintendent for secondary education, and Jimmy Hale, the new middle school’s principal, co-chaired the committee that chose the news school's name.

They worked with committee members randomly chosen by a computer. The other six members were three parents from feeder elementary schools, two parents from Gentry and Jefferson middle school attendance areas and one student. Together, the committee made a rubric to narrow submissions to acceptable names.

The committee received 157 submissions, 62 of which fit the rubric’s criteria. From there, five were selected, and John Warner Middle School was chosen to be brought to the board for approval.

Attendance area guidelines

The board also approved a revision for last year’s attendance area guidelines that considers time students spend on a bus and distance traveled to and from school. The board is revisiting attendance area guidelines because the district is looking into adjusting its elementary school attendance areas.

This revised guidelines also consider attendance area boundaries that follow natural and man-made boundaries, a transfer policy that allows fifth-grade students to remain at their current schools and policies that allow siblings to remain together in the same school, according to the guidelines posted on the meeting agenda.

Calendar for the 2020-21 school year

Because of a new law that says the school year can begin no earlier than 14 days before Labor Day — the first Monday in September — Columbia Public Schools' upcoming academic year will start later than previous years. This year, school began for Columbia Public Schools on Aug. 15. Next year, it will start Aug. 25.

The board approved the calendar Monday, but it is unclear when finals will take place in the 2020-21 school year.

“Before we presented to you and the staff survey, we actually gave two options,” Nickie Smith, the district’s chief human resources officer, said. “Well, one was having finals after the winter break. The other was having finals before the winter break, which has been the standard.”

In other news

  • CPS won a Meritorious Budget Award from the Association of Business Officials International for having a commitment to sound fiscal management and excellence in the school’s budget presentation.
  • The Columbia Missouri State Teachers Association gave a donation of $1,000 for the purchase of new musical instruments.
  • During the meeting, the board adopted the list of legislative priorities for 2019-20 related to board governance, financing for the district and ways to improve relations between the schools and community.
  • During the public comment section of the consideration of the priorities, Kathy Steinhoff, president of the Columbia Missouri National Education Association, encouraged the board finance committee to investigate ways to improve employee salaries. “I do not have the confidence that we will have high-quality teachers that are earning competitive salaries at that time,” Steinhoff said. “As we are planning for bricks and mortar, we need to be planning for recruitment and retention of the best teachers with or without the state of support.”

Supervising editor is Hannah Hoffmeister.

  • Education reporter, Fall 2019 Studying magazine editing Reach me at or in the newsroom at 882-5700.

  • Assistant Director of Photography, Staff Photo Editor Spring 2020, Staff Photographer Summer 2019, Education Reporter Fall 2019, Reach me at or in the newsroom at (573) 882-1690

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