After nine months of discussion and research, Columbia Public Schools narrowed 14 options for the location of a new elementary school down to three.
Members of Long-range Facilities Planning Committee and the Board of Education took a site tour at three sites Saturday to better inform their decisions.
The traffic at the first two sites was inconvenient enough that those on the tour didn’t have a chance to get out of the bus to look closely at the sites. This concerned School Board Member Jan Mees, who said if the district built a school there, issues with getting kids across the street could arise. She suggested it's possible students might have to bus every student every day.
Mees said although the third site at Scott Boulevard and Route KK is very pretty set atop a hill, it still has some issues.
“The third one we saw is right on the edge of neighborhood, so obviously that presents the issues that kids could go ahead and probably walk," Mees said. "But, they still have to be bussing from all these other neighborhoods."
School Board Superintendent Chris Belcher said the area surrounding the first two sites will grow and develop in the future. He said all three sites are worth considering despite the traffic issue Saturday, which he said would be addressed by engineers and architects.
“We are down to things you and I can see and try to draw our own opinion," Belcher said. "But really, where it's pointing now, our engineers and school architects have to come and evaluate the sites as well and tell us about those things. Because when we look at grade of roads and trees and all those kinds of things, that’s out of my skill set.”
Other than committee and board members, some parents from Rock Bridge Elementary School were also invited to the tour.
Christi Farmer has three kids attending Rock Bridge Elementary School, and she said she has heard of complaints about overcrowding in the school from her kids for a while.
“Rock Bridge is a smaller school, so the classrooms seem smaller," Farmer said. "So, trying to fit those little bodies in and the effectiveness of the teachers to be able to reach each of those kids and meet their individual needs is a challenge.”
Rock Bridge Elementary School Principal Mary Korth-Lloyd said her school has added teachers to address parents' concerns about teaching quality. Still, class sizes have grown.
“We got a brand new section of forth grade just last year, so we had four sections of everything except fifth grade," Korth-Lloyd said. "And the fifth grade is three sections."
Despite those efforts, Korth-Lloyd said the school still faces overcrowding so a new elementary school nearby would be a good solution. Mees said the board will have to continue discussion and make a decision in the next few months.