Columbia reveals design for new middle school

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COLUMBIA - Columbia Public Schools invited the public to review the design for the district's new middle school on Monday. 

The district plans to build the new school south of town to aid in growth in enrollment in that area. 

 

Only one of the district's six middle schools, Gentry Middle School, is located south of town. Last year, Gentry Middle School enrolled 868 students. 

P.W. Architects presented the design on Monday and has worked with the district since 2008 on recent elementary school construction projects. 

Monday's designs show off a two-story building with two wings and wide hallways. 

The plans aim for a comfortable and intuitive design. 

“It is easily accessible in terms of wayfinding, so be able to go right to the media center and be able to have a meeting there for parents, whereas in some of our other building you kind of have to walk around a bit and ask directions to get to the media center,” said Peter Stiepleman, Columbia Public Schools superintedent. 

The design plans for 700 students but leaves flexibility for future expansion, as well as future advancement in technology. 

The architects worked with committees to gain feedback on elements to incorporate. 

"The exciting piece for me is not the actual what I see in the building but knowing that it wasn’t that somebody came in with what they wanted to look like, they truly incorporated the ideas and thoughts of our end user," said Stiepleman, who has been a part of the planning process since April. 

The design process has also been challenging in terms of planning for how education will look in the future. 

“We’ve been thinking forward a lot in these early meetings about what CPS wants to do, how they want to deliver the curriculum at a middle school level, and we think the building will still work quite well for decades and decades," said P.W. Architets President Chris Davis. 

The design incorporated the need to open areas for the community after school hours while locking down classroom areas. 

Davis said this building's media center differs from older schools' libraries and includes multiple collaborative spaces for teachers and students. 

The Columbia Board of Education plans to use the feedback gathered Monday as the design moves forward. 

Many of those in attendance live in the area where the building is slated to be built. One concerned resident said her house is near the land and she was worried about the impact. 

Other residents voiced concern about the land's history with radioactive material when it was a research facility for the University of Missouri. The architect said the project has an environmental study underway.

In June, the Columbia Board of Education chose land on Sinclair Road in south Columbia. The purchase from MU is scheduled to be finalized in September. 

Davis said the next step is working on development with the engineers. 

If all goes as planned, construction will begin next summer so the new school can open in August 2020. 

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