The crosswalk leading to the current Pipkin Middle School. (Photo by Shannon Cay)

If Springfield school district voters approve an April 4 bond measure providing money to build a new Pipkin Middle School, the new school will rise about four miles east of the century-old building.  

On Thursday, Springfield Public Schools announced the new Pipkin would be built on a 20.9-acre property located at 3207 E. Pythian, near Highway 65. The district purchased the property following a unanimous closed-door decision by the school board on March 28. 

Terms of the deal have not been released, pending final closure of the deal, SPS spokesman Stephen Hall said. The land, currently zoned as agricultural, is owned by 4GS Investments-B LLC, according to Greene County Assessor’s records. 

The property is currently under contract, but the final closing depends on the outcome of the upcoming Proposition S vote, which would extend but not raise the district’s current 73-cent tax levy. The sale would occur after a 60-day period established for real estate appraisal and other standard property evaluation, according to a district news release. 

While the agreed-upon purchase price is not yet public, the land is assessed at $13,500. Hall said the funds to purchase the property would be drawn from the $220 million Proposition S bond measure if voters approve it next Tuesday. The estimated cost of rebuilding Pipkin — $53 million — includes the purchase of the land, Hall said. 

Travis Shaw, Springfield Public Schools executive director of operations, describes accessibility issues to members of a facilities task force gathered in the stairwell at Pipkin Middle School. (Photo by Cory Matteson)

New location addresses space constraints discussed by district leaders, Pipkin staff

The current Pipkin, which opened its doors to students in 1925, sits on a 3.1-acre property at 1215 N Boonville Ave. This summer, when members of a community task force that looked at pressing SPS facility needs toured the school, the cramped nature of the property was among the issues they learned about from school staff and district administrators. To allow for student athletics, a bus lane, parking and a functional student pickup and dropoff line, district administrators said a 10-acre property at minimum would be needed. 

Inside the building, school staff and administrators have pointed to numerous challenges that the century-old school presents. The labyrinthian school — comprised of three stories and a basement — was constructed well before public schools were required to be ADA-accessible. The school’s main entrance is inaccessible by students who use wheelchairs, and Pipkin’s one elevator often takes longer to reach its destination than the the amount of time students have to get from one class to another, said John Cameron, a special education teacher at Pipkin Middle School. 

The amount of time between classes is a brisk two minutes, and that time limit was designed with the building’s limitations in mind.

On Wednesday, Matt Morrow, Springfield Chamber of Commerce president and CEO, toured Pipkin with its principal, Duane Cox, as part of a district pilot program to give more community members a window into how the district’s schools function on a day-to-day basis. Morrow marveled at a system Cox and his staff had to put in place due to the building’s limited number of bathrooms.

There are only two sets of restrooms on the building’s four floors. Rather than lose instructional minutes to students in bathroom lines on different floors in-between classes, Cox implemented the two-minute time limit and then created a set of bathroom-specific breaks built into the school day. The system, Morrow reported to other community members, had cut down discipline issues as well, because kids weren’t lingering in-between classes. He said Cox’s previous experience in the logistics and shipping industry shone through in the development of that system. 

But Morrow also noted that areas of the school are beyond a state of disrepair. 

“Everything was dry today, but the basement classrooms flood when it rains,” Morrow said, adding that the smell from previous floods lingers. 

Pipkin has the lowest facility score of any school building in the district, as the community task force members learned. Cox, in a news release, said a new building would address the day-to-day challenges the staff, students and their guardians must navigate. 

“In addition to the safety enhancements, improved learning environment and expanded outdoor space, another added benefit of this property will be our ability to provide bus service to more of our students,” he said. “This will help ensure safe, reliable transportation to and from school every day for many of our families who are currently challenged with viable options. We anticipate that expanded busing will help our efforts to boost daily attendance and ultimately improve our academic achievement.”

Pipkin is where the district’s International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme is headquartered, and officials have said that a new school building could draw more students from across the district to enroll in the choice program.

The Pipkin rebuild is one of several projects tied to Proposition S. The century-old Reed Academy, where staff members have also had to develop intricate systems to address the building’s space-related challenges during the lunch hour, would be rebuilt on the school’s existing site. 

All told, the projects expected to be addressed through the proposed $220 million bond issue include: 

  • A new Pipkin Middle School at the newly announced site ($53 million)
  • Safety upgrades, including new storm shelter-gymnasiums at six elementary schools and other security measures installed across the district ($37.3 million)
  • A renovated Pershing K-8 ($50.5 million) that might become a middle school
  • A new Reed Academy ($59.5 million)

Cory Matteson

Cory Matteson moved to Springfield in 2022 to join the team of Daily Citizen journalists and staff eager to launch a local news nonprofit. He returned to the Show-Me State nearly two decades after graduating from the University of Missouri-Columbia. Prior to arriving in Springfield, he worked as a reporter at the Lincoln Journal Star and Casper Star-Tribune. More by Cory Matteson