Columbia Administrator Wants to Create New School

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COLUMBIA - A Columbia school administrator told KOMU 8 News Monday a new "community school" proposal could lead to a breakthrough for low-income students in Columbia.

Assistant Superintendent for Elementary Education Peter Stiepleman said Columbia education leaders look at standardized test score data each year and find poverty has an adverse effect on student achievement. The proposal is dubbed as the community school because area organizations would provide services like mental health care in addition to the educational offerings.

"One of the things that we have recognized in our community is that the achievement gap continues to persist," Stiepleman said. "We put great structures in place to support all students, and yet we continue to have gaps. And really when you go through our data, the gaps absolutely are between those kids who pay for lunch and those who receive free lunch."

Stiepleman said several community agencies have contributed ideas for the school, which would be open only to students who receive free or reduced lunches. The school would be open year-round and students would attend classes and activities from 7 a.m. - 6 p.m. Staff would prepare three meals a day for the students.

Stiepleman also said the school would be unique because students would start at an early age and their advancement through the system would be decided by their academic performance instead of their age. Stiepleman said students should only be able to move on if they have acquired certain skills.

Stiepleman said he hopes a $50 million bond issue will pass in April because some of the funds could be used to develop the school. Stiepleman said he would like to see the school open by 2018.