CHS renovation plans in progress

Planned renovations at Columbia High School were a major focus during Thursday’s Columbia School Board meeting.

Jennifer Carlson of FGM Architects presented results of a survey conducted among CHS faculty and staff to better understand needs of the school for the near future.

“We sat down with each department over the course of two days to talk to them about what their needs are as far as the spaces they’re currently using, how their growth could happen if that space was used differently or planned a little differently … and how can we facilitate the growth within the high school building while accommodating those needs that they’re currently looking for,” Carlson said.

Carlson broke down the presentation by department but also described the total amount of space the school could theoretically add to the building on school grounds.

CHS, which was built in 1970, could go from a net area of 81,266 square feet to 150,036 – including just usable floorspace. The gross area of the school – including walls, ductwork, etc. – could increase from 103,370 to 217,552 square feet.

This amount of growth to the school, as Carlson’s data showed, could potentially house 942 students.

Carlson emphasized that the figures she shared were merely hypotheticals, the most extravagant additions to the school that could be made on the grounds if every department got the improvements in which they expressed interest.

She further explained that next steps in the process would likely involve the board determining how many students they expect to serve going into the future as well as how much additional space and other amenities the school would need for each department.

Receiving specific mention at the meeting was the school’s home economics department which is often strapped for room as they accommodate cooking and several other classes in a very small space.

Columbia Superintendent of Schools Chris Grode spoke about the need for renovations at the high school, not just as the district continues to grow, but as the school already lacks necessary space such as additional science labs and an auditorium.

“How many students are we gonna have in the future? That is a puzzle, and if a fortune teller could give me an answer to that, I’d be very appreciative,” Grode said. “Shy of that, just if we keep the population that we currently have … there are some things that a school of our size should have that we just didn’t get in that building.”

Also at the meeting, the board approved the 2022 tax levy discussed last month, a handful of early graduates and two new high school classes: Beginning Band and Vocal Jazz Ensemble.

The board also approved the first reading of several new policies presented by the Illinois Association of School Boards.

Several resignations and hiring were also accepted and approved, with the board declaring vacancies for the position of seventh grade girls basketball coach and junior varsity golf coach.

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Andrew Unverferth

HTC web