Columbia Public Schools has yet to announce the location of a new elementary school in the southwestern part of Columbia.
Board of Education President Christine King says the board is still actively negotiating for land and is considering three potential properties for purchase. King says the district will be in a bind if contract negotiations for all three properties fall through.
King says although Mill Creek Elementary has adequate property to expand, the community does not want a larger elementary school with enrollment totals similar to a junior high school.
“Even if we had adequate land, we don’t want an elementary school to have 900 to 950, pushing 1,000 kids,” King said. “And so by building another elementary school in the southwest, that helps manage the growth of the student population in the southwest more efficiently than just expanding on Mill Creek.”
Board member Jonathan Sessions says the overcrowding is not a matter of class sizes, but rather the size of the building. Currently, Mill Creek’s enrollment total is 865 students, which is problematic because the school was built for 700. He said that because there are more students than the school was originally built to hold, managing the overcrowding has been cumbersome because the school lacks the space to effectively manage day-to-day activities.
“It’s just that there are so many students in the building that we’ve had to add trailers,” Sessions said. “And when you start adding trailers and more kids to a building, all of your amenities are over capacity. ”
The school recently added two more trailers to use as temporary classrooms due to the increased enrollment, and it has used both its cafeteria and gymnasium to split up large assemblies and gym classes. Because the school does not have a room designated for art class, teachers bring a rolling cart of art supplies into the classroom. Mill Creek does not have a designated music classroom, and music class is conducted in the same manner as art class.