Jefferson City Diocese may add two Catholic schools in Columbia

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COLUMBIA-Two new Catholic schools may come to Columbia by 2017. Bishop John Gaydos, of the Jefferson City Diocese, announced Tuesday at Our Lady of Lourdes Interparish School three goals he would like to accomplish in the next couple years. Gaydos calls the goals the "Columbia Project."

His first goal is "to establish a Catholic pre-school in Columbia."

His second goal is to "move students from the current site at Our Lady of Lourdes Interparish School to a new site, thus eliminating the current use of eight mobile trailers as classrooms."

His final goal is to "initiate a Capital Campaign in Columbia and surrounding area to fund Phase II of the Columbia Project."

Gaydos said it would not be up to him to determine if these goals take form.

"The steering committee is going to have full control of deciding how best we can achieve those three goals," Gaydos said.

People representing the diocese and three parishes, Our Lady of Lourdes, Sacred Heart and St. Thomas More Newman Center, will make up the steering committee.

The diocese considered adding a fourth parish in Columbia, but did not receive positive feedback from the community through listening sessions and surveys. The results showed that 35 percent of the parish showed "very high support for an additional school but not an additional parish."

Gaydos' second goal addresses the concern of an additional school.

"We are going to begin the process of finding a way to take some students from the current location so that we can eliminate the eight portable classrooms on the property," Gaydos said.

Although Gaydos' second goal involves relocating students from Columbia's lone catholic primary school, he said the Diocese has not decided on whether to build another elementary school.

"We have not decided that," Gaydos said.

But he also said the current location at Our Lady of Lourdes Interparish School is not suitable for expansion either.

"I don't think they have the room here," Gaydos said.

The Diocese of Jefferson City purchased 29 acres of land near Fr. Tolton Regional Catholic High School, but no locations for either the possible preschool or primary school have been decided.

"Obviously, I guess that land would be part of the equation, but I am not going to tie the committee's hands in any way," Gaydos said.

The current elementary school has 620 enrolled students, with a waitlist of 200 more.