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Committee still narrowing down school boundary possibilities

Wednesday, September 7, 2011 | 2:57 p.m. CDT; updated 11:54 a.m. CDT, Thursday, October 27, 2011

COLUMBIA — A committee redrawing Columbia's public school boundaries expects to present three possibilities to the public on Oct. 27, chairman Don Ludwig said. Public forums will be held in November.

The Secondary Enrollment Planning Committee had hoped to unveil them in August, according to a transition timeline posted on the district’s website. Ludwig said the committee decided not to meet in August. 

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More than 70 iterations are still under consideration, he said.

The committee plans to use public input from the November forums to eliminate one of the three boundary plans, then submit the other two to the Columbia School Board for a final decision, he said.

Ludwig confirmed that the committee is still enlisting the services of RSP and Associates, a consulting firm that uses computer models to assist school districts in drawing up enrollment plans.

Rob Schwarz, the firm’s principal planner and owner, previously told the Missourian his firm takes into account data from the census, hospitals, the Boone County assessor and real estate agents to accurately estimate the city’s residential demographics.

The committee uses the data to decide which boundaries stay and which will be adjusted to accommodate the new Battle High School in northeast Columbia.

“We might move a boundary one neighborhood over, then analyze the results,” Ludwig said. “Then we’ll move it two streets over and check again.”

Columbia residents got a chance to voice their opinions on the boundaries in forums held at public schools in April. Ludwig said the committee’s eight forums drew about 450 attendees altogether, most of them parents of students in the district.

Another set of forums will be held in November, Ludwig said, after the committee has made its choices.

Kristi Shoultz, a parent who attended the first series of forums, said her two main concerns with the new boundaries are teen drivers living far from high schools and socioeconomic equality among schools.

Shoultz lives with her husband and two daughters about a mile and a half from Rock Bridge High School, the high school her daughters would attend under the current boundaries. She said she would not have a problem allowing them to drive the short distance but would think twice about letting them drive to Hickman or Battle.

Shoultz said keeping most of the same classmates would be more important than new facilities to her daughters in the transition to high school.

She said the school district has been receptive to parent input during the process. But she acknowledged that it's inevitable for some parents to be displeased when the results are announced.

“People have ideas about other schools they or their kids didn’t go to,” Shoultz said. “But it’s just brick and mortar when it comes down to it.”

Terry Smith, who has a child in Columbia Public Schools, attended the first set of forums and said he plans to attend the next when the date is announced. Smith said the school district has done a good job of listening to parents.

“I think they have been very communicative,” he said.

Smith stressed the importance of using common sense in drawing new boundaries. He recalled a time when he used to live in Kansas City and a redistricting process there led to families leaving certain neighborhoods.

“When you try to force something on the taxpayers they don’t want, it doesn’t work,” Smith said.


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