CPS bond issue to alleviate overcrowding

CPS bond issue to alleviate overcrowding

Jacob Sykuta

[vc_row][vc_column width=”2/3″][vc_column_text][dropcap style=”flat” size=”4″]T[/dropcap]he passage of the Columbia Board of Education’s $30 million bond issue in early April is an attempt to alleviate overcrowding in Columbia Public Schools (CPS). The bond issue will fund the construction of a new middle school, school building classroom additions, building improvements, safety and security enhancements and technology infrastructure needs.
Additionally, the bond issue is to help eliminate all trailer classrooms and improve the learning environments and lifespan of CPS facilities, CPS Community Relations Director Michelle Baumstark said.
“The bond issue is part of the district’s long-range facilities plan,” Baumstark said. “It was established in 2006 to address continued growth in our district as well as long-term needs to maintain our schools.”
Baumstark sees Columbia as a great city to live in and understands why the city and school district population continues to increase. With this increase in population, however, she thinks CPS needs to continue improvements on education settings to keep up with the inevitable district growth.
“As our community grows our school district grows, we must continue to maintain our outstanding school district by providing quality and appropriate learning environments for all students,” Baumstark said. “Our community has access to resources and opportunities that other communities don’t have. As a result, people move here to take advantage of all we have to offer.”
Official student enrollment for the 2017-18 school year was 1,985 for RBHS, making it the largest CPS high school. Hickman High School has 1,712, Battle High School only has 1,506, and Douglass High School has 147, according to CPS enrollment data. While counselor Leslie Kersha doesn’t think RBHS is currently overpopulated, she understands the implications and hardships overcrowding has on students and faculty, especially on school counselors.
“The more students on a counselor’s caseload, the harder it is for counselors to develop personal relationships with each student,” Kersha said. “Counselors currently have approximately 400 students on our caseload. In addition to higher caseload numbers, we are also dealing with rising mental health issues. We are doing the best we can to serve our students and families; however, there is no question that we could be doing more if our caseloads were a more manageable size.”
Kersha not only supports the approval of the Columbia Board of Education’s bond issue because it would help fix the changing overcrowding issue within CPS, but also because she believes in the importance of improving facilities for students.
“I was very happy to see that the community supported the bond issue and passed it,” Kersha said. “We need to make sure our buildings keep up with the growing enrollment numbers and that we are able to have the updated technology to best serve our students.”
While overcrowding was partially solved by redistricting after the 2012-13 school year, CPS continues to grow, making the Apri bond issue a hopeful solution to the problem. Junior Wyatt Rogers was affected by the redistricting after the 2012-13 school year. Originally, Rogers disliked the idea of changing schools because he didn’t want to leave his friends, but now he sees the benefits from getting to experience different school environments. Rogers believes there is a need, however, to build additional classrooms at RBHS or, if necessary, build another high school..
“Our school is the only one on the south side of Columbia, and more and more people are moving to suburban areas of Route K and Thornbrook areas,” Rogers said. “Soon enough, Rock Bridge will not be able to house everyone from that side of town. I love Rock Bridge, but due to the increase of life in suburban areas, it wouldn’t be a bad idea [to build another high school].”
Ultimately, like Rogers, Kersha believes it is necessary for CPS to take action to solve the overcrowding issue not only in middle and elementary schools, but in high schools as well, specifically on the south side of Columbia.
“It seems the southside of Columbia continues to grow. I believe long term planning for our district should be looking at adding another high school,” Kersha said. “We need to expand if our student population continues to increase.”
Although there is no current plan to construct another high school on the south side of town, Baumstark believes CPS needs to address the overcrowding on the south side of Columbia, starting with the construction of the new middle and elementary schools.
“South Columbia is our fastest growing area of Columbia,” Baumstark said. “We have growth in multiple areas, and have built schools in other areas of town to address those increases. South Columbia is our next area.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/3″][/vc_column][/vc_row]