Return to normalcy in Columbia schools

A routine tax levy resolution and discussion on the district’s status amid the holiday season dominated much of the Columbia School Board meeting on Nov. 16.

The board approved the authorization of an estimated aggregate extension to the tax levy of 5 percent.

At its December meeting, the board will vote on whether or not to approve the levy and submit it to the county board.

Columbia Superintendent of Schools Christopher Grode explained the 5 percent extension is routine among the school board each year as district costs increase given employee raises and other necessities.

Grode further explained that school districts in Illinois are able to request an extension of no more than 5 percent without a public hearing.

Grode also noted that this change to the tax levy doesn’t necessarily mean homeowners’ taxes will increase, citing the decrease in taxes that occurred within the last year.

“Does that mean we’re raising taxes by 5 percent? No,” Grode said. “As you saw last year when we raised it by 5 percent, we actually dropped the tax rate 60 cents.”

The board also approved the latest years of service record.

The board and several guest speakers spoke at length about the state of schools in the district as the year goes on.

Columbia Middle School Principal Dawn Mueller spoke about fun the school enjoyed through October, noting the class pumpkin decorating and Halloween costumes in particular.

Columbia Assistant Superintendent of Schools Alyssa Smith discussed other developments in the district – including the middle school’s new gaga pit – but she too mentioned the Halloween celebration at CMS.

Having participated in the school’s festivities on Halloween, she recalled the energy and excitement she saw among students on the bleachers who had spent much of the last two years attending classes online.

“To see the kids that engaged, that excited and all together again I think is … we’re getting back to that normalcy, incorporating that fun. That hard work in the class room is paid off with some excitement and some fun,” Smith said. “So in that gym, when I walked in that day and saw how excited the kids were, it really just gave me chills.”

Columbia High School’s facility study was also discussed, with Grode saying a presentation of the projects was pending for next month’s meeting.

Grode added the district is looking for construction management and is considering necessary qualifications given the scale of the project.

Grode also spoke about the snow that came the weekend prior to the meeting.

He noted the district has five emergency days included in its schedule, which might get used up given rumors he’s heard about potentially heavy snowfall this winter.

“If we run out of our emergency days, we’ll keep you posted,” Grode said. “Remote learning is not something we want to go back to. In-person instruction is key. We also need to keep everybody safe and in school, so just, we have those five emergency days, and we’ll use them.”

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Andrew Unverferth

HTC web