Major changes discussed for Columbia's Lee Elementary School

Apr 9, 2013

The Columbia Board of Education debated a major change for one of its elementary schools at last night’s meeting. Lee Expressive Arts Elementary School, located in the heart of downtown Columbia, is attempting to follow the example set by Ridgeway Elementary and become an autonomous school operating within the Columbia Public School District.

Lee parent Candace Sall said she is excited for the changes to come.

"It will give us more opportunities to tweak things that maybe other schools aren’t because we have an expressive arts school we will be able to put in special programs of little events," Sall said.

The change would allow Lee Elementary to break away from the structure of the public school system and make budgeting and staffing decisions individually.

Lee Elementary Principal Karen Burger said she is confident that the change would better serve Lee’s mission as an expressive arts school by increasing scheduling flexibility.

“We wanted to have students stay at school and work on an area of interest — whether it’s dance or whether it’s an instrument that is no longer in the elementary schools," Burger said. "We could have that and give teachers time to collaborate on how to integrate the arts."

The process of becoming an autonomous school has been two years in the making for Lee Elementary. Burger said she is hopeful if the school board approves the plan in May, the school may start getting together the governance board and start the implementation process.

The board also received a financial update and expectations for the upcoming school year at Monday night's meeting. The opening of the new Battle High School has pushed the district into what it calls "planned deficit spending." 

The board said it is confident the district will recoup the money. The district planned to over spend by $9.5 million, but it also has planned a revenue increase of $4.5 million  and a growth of 292 students next year.

The board also approved a new policy for technology in the classrooms Monday night. The new policy will allow students to use electronic devices in the classrooms for instructional purposes. Board members, including Superintendent Chris Belcher, said they are confident that the policy will be a positive change for students and teachers.