School board to talk new middle school, Douglass renovations

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COLUMBIA - Finding a space for students was a topic of conversation Monday night for the Columbia Board of Education.

The district is searching for an alternate location for Douglass High School students during renovations to the 100-year-old building next school year.

CPS spokesperson Michelle Baumstark said safety updates like electrical improvments and ADA requirements are part of a $5 million project.

In addition to the building updates, Baumstark said there is also a $1.4 million project to add career courses for Douglass High School students. The plan is to add an area for culinary courses, welding courses, and music classes because those options are currently not available to Douglass High School students.

The district is still looking for an off-site location near the heart of Columbia where Douglass High School is currently located. 

Also at Monday's meeting, the board heard an update on school attendance numbers.

Baumstark said there are early discussions about a need for a new middle school in the district.

CPS has completed and is still working on adding new schools to the district. The district opened Battle Elementary School this year and will open Beualah Ralph Elementary School in 2016 and East Elementary School in 2018 to eliminate trailer use at other schools. The district also added Battle High School.

However, there are no new middle schools in the district. Baumstark said Gentry Middle School is seeing the most overcrowding.

The presentation at the board meeting revealed Gentry is over capacity with 837 students enrolled in a school that only has the capacity to hold 775.

Baumstark said talks of a new middle school are still early in discussion. She said building a new school takes years of planning, but there could be a new middle school in the next five years.

Baumstark said the district will hold an event on October 22 to ask the community what they want as far as facilities. Baumstark expects a new middle school to be a topic of discussion at the event.