Some Logistics of Nature School to be Determined

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COLUMBIA - Some Columbia Public Schools employees said the planned nature school in Columbia would provide a positive educational environment for students to get hands on learning, but board members said they still need to work out some logistics before the school would open its doors for the 2015-2016 school year.

Columbia School Board of Education President Christine King said the new nature school would allow more hands on learning and incorporation of science in all study areas.

"For most students, they learn better with this hands on, touch it, feel it, see it, smell it," King said. "And we also know, the more fresh air and the more activity kids get, they learn better. And really when you're in a traditional classroom, you just don't get all of those all the time."

King said it is still early in the process and board members still need to figure out details about the lottery for the school. She said the school would allow 100 fifth grade students total. She said while the lottery process is not finalized yet, she expects the first 20 lottery spots to go to students at Benton Elementary, then lotteries for Rock Bridge Elementary, followed by the school district at large.

King said the board has not yet determined details about students being grandfathered in.

"If I'm a sibling and I attend the nature school year one and then I have a younger brother or sister that's coming up the next year and they want to go, are they automatically grandfathered in, are some of those details and specifics that we have to work out," King said.

Susan McClintic, a fifth grade teacher at Alpha Hart Lewis Elementary School, said staffing for the school is still to be determined as well.

"We're kind of looking to see how we're going to staff this. It's not firm yet. We haven't signed the memorandum of agreement or understanding at this point yet so we're looking at that. It is an expense," McClintic said.

McClintic said she thinks the most challenging aspect for teachers will be making sure to fit in all the requirements.

"Time will be the most challenging I would think. How to get in what you want to do, which is what we all struggle with, and still meet all the assessment guidelines," McClintic said.

King said the students at the nature school would be held to all state and local assessments. She said building the nature school is an innovation that says a lot about Columbia.

"When it comes to public education around the state of Missouri, we're viewed as that lighthouse school district. We're right in the middle of the state, we're near the University, and we have this great community support," King said.

King said the board would start to work out details about the school such as the lottery at the beginning of the coming school year.