Tentative elementary school redistricting plan laid out

Monday, March 17, 2008 | 8:55 p.m. CDT; updated 9:10 a.m. CDT, Friday, October 31, 2008

COLUMBIA — The Elementary Enrollment Planning Committee has finalized its initial elementary school redistricting proposal, which would reorganize boundary lines that determine attendance in the Columbia Public School District.

The reorganization is necessary because of the new elementary school, which will open in northeast Columbia in August 2009.

The proposed redistricting plan would cause roughly 800 children in northern Columbia to change schools when the 2009-10 school year begins.

The district is planning a set of forums to be held at various elementary schools to get input from parents and community members on the proposed boundary lines and transition plans, Don Ludwig, enrollment committee chairman, said.

The committee — and Ludwig — was appointed by the school board to propose a new redistricting plan.

“When we did Paxton-Keeley, most parents were so interested in the new school that most didn’t mind making the move,” Ludwig said.

He said the district wants to be flexible with families throughout the change.

“My experience is that when families change schools, there is a lot of angst,” he said. “But many end up liking it.”

Ludwig said feedback from these forums will be taken into consideration when the committee makes its final proposal to the school board on May 12.

The committee has already held parent forums at Field and Lee elementary schools.

“Right now, we’re doing all these things on theory,” Ludwig said. “It doesn’t frighten us at all to hear parents say, ’Why aren’t you providing busing for this,’ or something.”

The next forum will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Shepard Boulevard Elementary School. Additional forums will be held at Blue Ridge Elementary School on April 15 and Derby Ridge Elementary School on April 23. Another forum is tentatively planned for April 1 at Benton Elementary School.

To develop new school boundaries, the committee looked specifically at the enrollment patterns of eight elementary schools: Derby Ridge, Blue Ridge, Lee, Field, Shepard Boulevard, Cedar Ridge, Benton and Parkade. These eight are located the closest to the site of the new school.

Ludwig said that the enrollment of these schools is collectively 600 to 700 students more than capacity. The new elementary school has a capacity of about 650 students.

Ludwig said that if the proposed boundary lines become the final plan, the new school would include around 200 students from Derby Ridge, 60 from Lee, 80 from Field and 80 from Shepard Boulevard. Part of Benton’s current attendance area would transition to Blue Ridge.

Under the proposed redistricting plan, Field would no longer be an elementary school. Field students would be split up between the new school, Benton and Blue Ridge. The district is recommending that Field be used as an early childhood education center.

Ludwig said the proposed plan would address three goals: to reduce overcrowding, to better match capacity and enrollment and to allow room for growth. It would also eliminate the isolated “island” attendance areas north of Interstate 70 that feed into Field, Shepard Boulevard and Lee, and reduce overcrowding at Derby Ridge by around 200 students. Island attendance areas are small groups of homes that feed into a different elementary school than other homes in the surrounding areas.

The committee’s transition plan for students and families affected by the new boundaries allows for choice. The district will provide options for students that face the possibility of changing schools. Depending on the specific elementary school and the student’s grade level, students might have the option to:

- Attend their current school, with parents providing transportation.

- Enroll in the school that was redistricted to become their home school, with the district providing transportation if eligible.

- Transfer their enrollment to another school where parents would provide transportation, if space is available.

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