It was just three years ago, when Columbia Elementary School was a mere 89 years old, that the Joplin School District sought to address issues with the deteriorating building.

A 2016 renovation project remodeled the school’s restrooms, added a fresh coat of interior paint and installed carpeted flooring. It was meant to address “Band-Aids” that had been added over the years inside the school, such as metal plates that had been screwed to the floor in the girls’ restroom on the east side in an attempt to stabilize it.

Columbia is 92 this year, and unfortunately, not much in terms of the building has changed. The foundation has settled on one side. And it’s still crumbling, in some cases with walls so cracked and separated that the new gymnasium, which has been closed to the public for two years, can no longer be certified for tornado safety under Federal Emergency Management Agency standards.

It is clear that something must be done about the old school and that short-term fixes are no longer a viable, sustainable solution.

That’s why the Board of Education is exploring, through one of its committees, multiple options for the long-term stability of Columbia. Among the options being discussed are a stabilization and retrofit or renovation of the current school, the construction of an entirely new school that would likely serve current students of both Columbia and West Central, and a demolition of the existing structure and a rebuild at the same site.

Nothing has been decided yet, so if you have an idea of what you’d like to see happen with Columbia, make sure your school board members know about it.

We love the appeal of keeping a neighborhood school for north Joplin, but we also understand the difficulty of finding an unmined, undeveloped property on which to build a new school.

Columbia has served its neighborhood well for nearly a century, and it’s our belief that its success isn’t based on the building itself. The principals, the teachers and the support of parents are in large part what drive students to academic and social success.

But there’s no question that a building that isn’t falling apart is better than one that is. The Joplin community has some major decisions to make about Columbia, and those decisions should be made with the best interest of its schoolchildren in mind.

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