New elementary school opens space for increasing population


photo by Madelyn Stewart

Derek Wang

In May 2016, Columbia Public Schools will open a new elementary school. Located in southwest Columbia, CPS will have to adjust the boundaries of its six other elementary schools in order to fit the school into Columbia.
CPS Superintendent Dr. Peter Stiepleman said every year, the district adds about 200 new elementary school students each year, resulting in the need for a new elementary school almost every year.
“We’re running out of space,” Stiepleman said. “The development in the southwest and northeast of town is significant. We have a committee working on changing the boundaries right now.”
Columbia Board of Education President Christine King said the committee consists of 23 members from all across CPS. The committee will continue to work on the boundaries through January. King said most of the already established elementary schools currently have many trailers, and the district hopes to be able to remove most, if not all, of the trailers. However, the amount of expansion in Columbia makes this a challenge.
“We have had tremendous growth in the southwest, and we know through forecasting and data, this trend will continue,” King said. “We also know now through research and experience, elementary schools operate best at no more than about 650 students. At [Mill Creek] and Paxton, we have over 850 and close to 800, respectively.”
Assistant Superintendent for Elementary Education Ben Tilley, the president of the committee on the new elementary school, said adding the new elementary school will allow CPS to remove many trailers from other schools.
Also, the new school will provide a reduction in the number of students at every other elementary school in the district, so that each is closer to the ideal number; the faculty will be decided on, next year, in the fall.
“The principal is usually the first person hired for a new school,” Tilley said. “The process for deciding the principal for the school usually begins by gathering information from the new families about characteristics that they would like to see in the principals. After the information is gathered, the school district typically posts the position and applications are gathered. A committee interviews the principal candidates and makes a recommendation to the Superintendent of Schools.”
Furthermore, Tilley said the committee is also in the process of deciding on the school’s name. King said that at the next board meeting the Board of Education will also discuss viable options for it. The Board will take suggestions from the community and take those suggestions into account.
“We have a committee of community members and other officials that seek input from the community,” Tilley said. “The Superintendent of Schools will work with the Board of Education to help determine the process for selecting the name for the school. Typically a committee is formed and recommendations for the name is gathered. The recommended names are then presented to the Board of Education for approval.”
Senior Delaney Tevis said  when she was in elementary school, she had classes in trailers for a few years. She said that she understands that sometimes trailers are necessary for reducing the number of students in each class, citing her own experiences from elementary school. However, Tevis said that at times, being in a trailer resulted in less attentiveness in her peers.
“I was in a trailer classroom during third and fifth grade,” Tevis said, “and with 25 kids it does become really crowded, especially when it gets hot and stuffy. Especially with kids, they get incredibly rambunctious when cooped up in a trailer so I definitely liked being in the classroom better.”
By Derek Wang