Two Columbia private schools set plans for expansion

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COLUMBIA - In the year 2000, Columbia was home to roughly 86,000 people. By 2013, the city had grown to a population of about 115,000, making it one of the fastest growing cities in Missouri. This growth in population has led to the opening of Battle High School and the current construction of a new public elementary school at Scott Boulevard and Highway KK.

It has also led to waiting lists at some area schools, including the private schools Our Lady of Lourdes Interparish School and Christian Fellowship School.

Elaine Hassemer, the principal at Our Lady of Lourdes Interparish School said, "There is a waiting list at every grade level, and if you total that all together for all of the grades its probably around 150 or 200."

The large waiting list at Our Lady of Lourdes has led to a plan to open up another facility in the area. The school's steering committee will decide where the location will be, and what grades will be housed within the new facility. The group hopes to eliminate the use of eight mobile trailers used as classrooms. In a meeting on January 28, Bishop John Gaydos said he hopes to establish a Catholic preschool in Columbia.

Our Lady of the Lourdes gauged interest from members of the parish through listening sessions and surveys. It found about 35% of the parish showed "very high support for an additional school, but not an additional parish."

The parish hopes to fund its expansion through a capital campaign in Columbia and the surrounding areas.

Christian Fellowship School also has plans for expansion.

Public Relations Director Christi Wolverton said the church that sponsors the school is moving into a new building on Chapel Hill in 2018, the school will take over the current space completely and renovate the interior space. The school hopes to then have two classes for each grade. The school currently uses trailers for the fourth, fifth, and sixth grades. 

Wolverton said the school hopes to build numbers up gradually after the expansion, and that it isn't expecting a huge influx of students at just one time. 

"Columbia is a growing town, just as public schools are getting crowded private schools are getting crowded too," Wolverton said. 

Wolverton said that there seems to be a consistent interest from people who want to have private school education for their children. She said she believes the small school environment makes it more personal for children and their teachers. 

Wolverton said the school never wants to become a "really huge mega school" in fear of losing its "family atmosphere."

Christian Fellowship School plans to start expansion in 2018.

Our Lady of Lourdes hopes to have its second facility completed sometime in 2017.