The Columbia School Board will vote Monday on an $80 million bond plan that would include funding for two new elementary schools.

If approved, the bond plan would be placed on Columbia’s April election ballot. The plan would not increase the public tax rate.

If authorized by 57% voter approval, the district plans to acquire the $80 million in bonds in two $40 million installments in June 2022 and 2024. The funds would go toward building two new elementary schools as well as supporting technology infrastructure and renovating existing facilities.

One of the new schools would be built on the John Warner Middle School campus and is scheduled to open in the 2024-2025 school year. The other school is scheduled to open in the 2026-2027 school year, but a location has not been decided.

The $80 million bond plan is part of a wider initiative by the district to address growing enrollment rates and overcrowding. The plan has been in place since 2018 and aims to improve security and accessibility within district schools as well, according to a district presentation to be brought before the board Monday.

The board will also vote on a plan to refund bonds — a plan that has been in motion since last year. If approved, the bonds will be refunded, or essentially refinanced at a lower interest rate, district Chief Financial Officer Heather McArthur said.

The district would save more than $1 million in interest payments as it pays back the bonds with the new interest rate.

No COVID-19 vote planned

The board doesn’t plan to vote on any COVID-19-related items.

At December’s School Board meeting, the board voted 4-3 to extend the district’s COVID plan but to drop the district-wide mask mandate from the plan.

This decision came days after an order from Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt to end mask mandates statewide, although district spokesperson Michelle Baumstark said Schmitt’s order had no impact on the decision at the time of the meeting.

The new masking rules have been in effect since Tuesday, the first day back from winter break for Columbia Public Schools. The controversial decision has sparked plenty of pushback, including a petition with more than 2,000 signatures for an emergency meeting to reevaluate the masking rules.

Superintendent Brian Yearwood sent out an email to district stakeholders Thursday addressing the lack of agenda items relating to the district’s COVID-19 policy. In previous meetings, the board continuously voted on whether to extend the plan each meeting.

“The Board of Education agenda for its meeting on Monday was posted this afternoon and it does not include an item related to COVID. This does not mean the Board of Education and district administration are not monitoring the situation,” Yearwood said.

Yearwood went on to encourage masks amid a nationwide and countywide COVID-19 case spike related to the omicron variant.

“While we do not have a requirement in place for universal masking, please continue to wear a mask,” he said. “I am greatly encouraged to see and hear of so many in our schools who are wearing masks, especially as we experience the spikes related to the Omicron variant.”

According to the Boone County Department of Health and Human Services, the county had 2,109 active COVID-19 cases as of Friday, the highest number since the beginning of the pandemic, marking the fourth straight day of the county breaking the active cases record.

The board will vote to extend Yearwood’s contract by one year on Monday. If approved, this would extend Yearwood’s current contract until June 30, 2025.

Special recognition

The board will recognize five Hickman High School students for their performance in the Missouri School of Journalism AdZou Challenge. The team won both the overall championship as well as the best tactics award.

The five students are:

  • Jessica Zie
  • Greta Frymire
  • India Bratrud
  • Isaac Lewis
  • Ellie Orr

The meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. in the Aslin Administration Building, 1818 W. Worley St. It will be livestreamed on CPS-TV, which can be viewed on the district’s website, CenturyLink, Mediacom, Charter Spectrum, Roku, Apple TV and Fire TV.

  • Columbia City and County Government beat reporter. Junior studying writing and reporting. I can be reached at Mattmcfarland@mail.missouri.edu or reach the newsroom at 882-5720.

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