Columbia delays plans for nature-centered school

Written by Muleskinner Staff

(COLUMBIA, Mo., AP) — The Columbia school district will delay the opening of a proposed nature-centered school until at least 2015, district officials said.

The district is considering opening a school that would incorporate the study of nature into all core subjects.
Last month, district officials discussed the possibility of opening the school by next school year. But assistant superintendent of elementary education Peter Stiepleman told a finance committee on Wednesday that the opening will be delayed, The Columbia Daily Tribune reported.
The proposed school is to be built in Rock Bridge Memorial State Park. It could open in August 2015 with about 100 fifth-grade students to be chosen mainly through a lottery system, district officials said.
“We pushed pretty fast on this idea, and it caught fire. Now we’re slowing down a little bit,” Superintendent Chris Belcher said. “We think we’re on to something to be a state model if not a national model, but you get into legal issues with cost-sharing, and we know it’s going to be a little bit slower.”
Missouri State Parks will be a partner in the project. The district also is working with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and other organizations, such as Missouri River Relief, are interested, Stiepleman said.
Having more time would allow the district to better coordinate with those partners and help administrators find ways to keep costs down, he said.
The Department of Natural Resources has offered to split the opening costs, Stiepleman said, and the district plans to staff the school, which will have four classrooms, with existing teachers.