Columbia Public Schools discusses expansion, possible levy

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COLUMBIA - More than 100 people filed into the Holiday Inn Executive Center Thursday night to discuss the future route for Columbia's public schools. 

CPS posed questions to the audience about how the community assist in making the district better and continue positive growth. According to CPS Superintendent Dr. Peter Stiepleman, the community has stressed the need to retain and recruit high-quality employees. 

Dr. Stiepleman said less than 20 percent of the families in the community have students attending CPS, but said it's important that the community understands that the economic development of the city is completely tied to the success of the schools. Therefore with the exponential growth of students, the main question was geared toward possible bonds and levies to build the necessary space to accommodate the new growth.

According to the superintendent one of the problems is the overcrowding of Gentry Middle school with more than 850 students and has trailers. He said CPS wants to get away from these trailers. 

"What we're proposing to the community, that the school board will have to think about, is a no-tax bond and then an operating levy increase," Stiepleman said. "Tonight is about asking what does that mean for you, are we willing to pay for high-quality teachers? Are we willing to pay for the programs that we find that are important?"

He said his goal for the district's future lies in being the best in the state, but that comes with the help of the community. For families, that could mean an eight to 15 dollar increase. 

"That's a sacrifice, that I understand absolutely. I'm a homeowner, and to invest in our public schools means something less for me in terms of my own family, I get that," Stiepleman said.  

The CPS superintendent also proposed the district turn Jefferson Middle School into a STEM and arts middle school, but that decision and conversation is still up in the air.