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      School offiicials push for Columbia bond issue to pass

      Election Day is two weeks from Tuesday.

      Columbia voters will be deciding on a variety of topics dealing with everything from city government to school boards to surveillance cameras.

      A new Columbia high school is the main centerpiece of a question on the upcoming April 6 ballot.

      Columbia Public School Officials are asking voters to approve a $120 million bond issue. The money would pay for a new high school, a new elementary school and building maintenance throughout the entire district. School board member Karla DeSpain said the new high school is important, but just as important is the fact that 23 percent of Columbia students have class in 164 trailers. DeSpain said passage of the bond issue would get rid of more than 40 trailer classrooms.

      We TMre hopeful that with the passage of the bond issue we can move that ninth grade into the high school arena and build two gyms at the other two high schools so that they have capacity for physical education classes that they are lacking in now because those schools are so crowded, DeSpain said.

      Right now, more than 17,000 students attend Columbia Public Schools. School officials project another 1,000 students over the next five years. Columbia TMs school bond issue proposal does not require a tax increase.

      This simply extends the amount of time that we pay off bonds," School Superintendent Dr. Chris Belcher said. "We are still way under the capacity of which we could sell bonds. We think it TMs the right thing to do because when you have 164 trailers in a public school district, you know that we are way over capacity on the number of students we have in our schools.

      Columbia school officials said passage of the bond issue is necessary to build new buildings and maintain existing ones for the students of today and tomorrow. There is no organized opposition to the $120 million bond issue proposal.

      If the bond issue fails, Belcher said the district will have to make some major adjustments to deal with a growing student population and the high cost of building maintenance.