Voters will decide Tuesday if Columbia schools will be moving forward with construction or re-evaluating their plans for the future.
The Columbia Public School district proposed a $50 million dollar bond that would increase property taxes by four cents per $100. The district says this bond issue will be used to repair and expand on Columbia Public Schools’ existing facilities.
For Principal Angie Chandler and her students at Cedar Ridge Elementary School, these renovations are long overdue.
“Our building was built for a capacity of 100 students. We’re at nearly 200 at times,” Chandler said. “I have more classrooms filled at any given time outside of the building with students than I have even inside of the building.”
The kids that do not fit into the classrooms at Cedar Ridge Elementary are taught in one of the school’s seven trailers. Many schools throughout the district use trailers to handle overcrowding, but Superintendent Chris Belcher said these temporary structures were never meant to be a permanent solution to the growth of schools.
“[The trailers] are just not a good solution for long-term facilities,” Belcher said. “We would like to have all kids inside a mortar-and-brick facility that is safe an secure and can be managed in an efficient manner.”
Both Chandler and Belcher listed many problems with using trailers for students but their top concern was safety of the students. During severe weather like a tornado, students have to walk outside to get into the main building.
Students at Cedar Ridge Elementary face this issue during every storm, because the school’s only bathrooms are in the main building.
“We are sending them out in the weather just to go to the restroom. You know I hate doing that,” Chandler said.
If the district’s $50 million bond issue should pass, $30 million of the bond will be used to build a new elementary school to replace Cedar Ridge. The district also plans to use the bond money to expand existing elementary and middle schools, eliminating more of the trailers used by Columbia Public Schools.
Belcher said eliminating these trailers would also be more cost effective for the school district. Each of the district’s 123 trailers has it’s own heating and cooling systems. With all of the maintenance costs, Belcher said a trailer costs 35% more per year to heat and cool than a classroom.
This year’s bond is the third in a ten-year plan to expand and renovate Columbia Public Schools’ facilities. According to Belcher, the school district will continue to ask for the $50 million bond every two years until the year 2022.