Homeowners concerned with new elementary school proposal

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COLUMBIA - Homeowners living in a subdivision on the East side of Columbia said they are unhappy with part of a proposal for the new East Elementary School. 

Members of the homeowners association were supposed to speak at the Columbia Planning and Zoning Commission meeting Thursday night, but that part of the meeting was tabled. Columbia Public School spokesperson Michelle Baumstark said there were too many questions about parts of a traffic study the school conducted in the neighborhood.

The HOA said it is not in favor of the new elementary school using the same entrance the subdivision uses. 

"We are very in favor of having the school here, I think It's a great location. I'm excited about it because I can literally walk my children to school. So we're excited about having the school there," HOA treasurer Jessica Kempf said. 

She is concerned about the traffic in the subdivision because it could affect the safety of residents and future students. 

The HOA suggested a direct access from Rolling Hills Road to the school site instead.

"We've been told that it's cost issues, but we've done kind of our own discovery, and it's not quite as much as they are saying it's going to be, so we're really not sure why that wasn't explored as an option," Kempf said. 

Michelle Baumstark said CPS has looked into the HOA's suggestion but does not believe putting in a new road is possible. She said estimates are between $2 and 4 million to construct the road. 

"The area that they have suggested is not property that we own so that's part of the challenge there. Additionally, it is beyond what the school district can afford to do at this point in time," Baumsark said. 

Baumstark also said the school district concluded the neighborhood entrance could handle the amount of traffic the school would bring. 

Baumstark said Columbia Public Schools does not own the land needed to build a new road to the school site. She said CPS would have to work with the city to come up with a plan for a road.

"There are a lot of requirements when it comes to road construction," Baumstark said.  

A news release by Columbia Public Schools said in May the estimated cost to acquire the land is $832,000, and development of the site is estimated to cost $1.7 million. 

The news release also said the school is set to open in 2018 and is being funded with bond funds approved in the April 2014 bond issue election. The building design will mirror Battle Elementary School and Beulah Ralph Elementary School. 

"There's a lot of excitement about having a neighborhood school, it will provide a lot of opportunity for the neighborhood to have access to the playgrounds, and there will be a park right by the school and so there are a lot of positive things going on as well," Baumstark said.