The Columbia Public Schools District is one step closer to annexing Rock Bridge Elementary School into the city. The school lies just on the outskirts, at the intersection of South Route K and South Highway 163.
Members of the public attended a public information meeting at City Hall to get more information from Crockett Engineers and the city about what the annexation proposal looks like, and why they want to do it.
Board of Education Members Jonathan Sessions said there were a number of benefits to annexation, including enhancing public safety for the elementary school.
Right now, the school resource officer at Rock Bridge High School can’t respond to Rock Bridge Elementary School without jurisdictional issues.
I know our SRO is going to go over to any situation should one arise, I have no doubt about that,” said Sessions. “But the sheriff’s obviously not going to be right on the border of the city of Columbia so we know that being in CPD’s jurisdiction will be beneficial.”
The district also works closely with the Columbia Parks and Recreation Department to create park space for the city. Sessions said when the district has some land but not the financial means, it can partner with Parks and Rec to make that a reality. Because Rock Bridge is in the county right now, they wouldn’t have that opportunity.
“Cost of land is one of the biggest costs that Columbia Parks and Rec would be facing,” he said. “Those joint projects obviously make a much better opportunity to develop a playground for our students. In addition to that, it often means a park for our community.”
But a major reason for the annexation would be to make things more congruous and consistent when the district wants to add building space to Rock Bridge. The school’s Long Range Planning team has been discussing building expansion for some schools with funds from a voter-approved bond issue, and Rock Bridge is on the list because of the explosive growth in south Columbia.
“First and foremost, demand and growth,” he said. “If schools are overcrowded, that is where we are looking.”
It also has to do with the best way to get more classroom space that uses taxpayer funds wisely.
“We want to make sure if we’re developing and expanding a school, or redesigning, remodeling or renovating, that we’re getting the most classroom space for taxpayer dollars,” Sessions said. “We think about Rock Bridge Elementary, there’s a lot of land there.”
The annexation would cost about $2,100 and the money would come from the Facilities and Construction Services operating budget.
According to the district’s timeline, the city council will likely take this up for a vote in February.
This also isn’t the first time the district has done this. They also built Battle High School outside city limits, and then annexed it in.
Sessions said he has been getting some questions about whether or not the Rock Bridge Elementary BBQ Chicken Fundraiser will be able to continue if the school is annexed into the city, and he said no one should be worried and that the BBQ will go on.