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Early plans for two new CPS elementary schools in works

Two new elementary schools may be coming to Columbia Public Schools in a matter of years.

An $80 million bond plan, which will be split into two $40 million phases, for the construction of two elementary schools and a handful of district renovations made it over a first, key hurdle at the Long-Range Facilities Planning Committee meeting Wednesday. The committee approved a recommendation to pass the plan on for consideration by the Finance Committee.

The first phase of the plan proposes the construction of an elementary school at the John Warner Middle School campus to open by the 2024-2025 school year. During the committee meeting Wednesday, Chief Operating Officer Randy Gooch said the decision was made based on projected growth in the community.

“We know that area is still going to grow. In fact, there’s some development right across the road that’s going to be happening pretty quickly, so we know that’s going to be a need,” Gooch said.

Based on data collected by consulting firm Cooperative Strategies, district enrollment is expected to increase over the next 10 years. Chief Financial Officer Heather McArthur explained a new school might alleviate crowding at schools in the area, such as Beulah Ralph Elementary.

“That school is already over capacity, and it has only been open for five years,” McArthur said.

An addition to Battle Elementary School is also included in the first phase.

The second phase of the plan includes the construction of a second elementary school that has not been decided on yet but is planned for completion by the 2026-2027 school year. McArthur confirmed Thursday morning that the district will monitor where growth occurs in the district and where the highest need for a new school exists.

Foundation and infrastructure improvements for the Columbia Area Career Center are also included in the plan.

If approved by the Finance Committee on Dec. 8, the plan will move on to the Columbia School Board. The board will consider placing the plan on the ballot for the upcoming April School Board election during its Dec. 13 meeting. From there, the public will vote on the bond plan.

The funds will be issued in June 2022 for the first phase of the plan and June 2024 for the second phase if approved. This project will not affect public tax rates.

“It’s a no tax increase bond,” McArthur confirmed Thursday morning.

On Thursday, Gooch said planning is still in a preliminary phase and design work has not yet begun.

The Columbia Missourian is a community news organization managed by professional editors and staffed by Missouri School of Journalism students who do the reporting, design, copy editing, information graphics, photography and multimedia.