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LIVE: School boundaries forum from Jefferson Junior High School

Wednesday, November 9, 2011 | 7:01 p.m. CST; updated 11:20 p.m. CST, Wednesday, November 9, 2011

For background on the proposed new school boundaries in Columbia, view maps of the redistricting options and read our previous coverage.

COLUMBIA — The fourth of eight community forums about realigning intermediate and high school boundaries is under way at Jefferson Junior High School. The Missourian is live-blogging the discussion.

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Your blogger this evening is Missourian reporter James Ayello, a junior in journalism from Elgin, Ill. He's being assisted by Brendan Gibbons, a junior in science and agricultural journalism from Grand Junction, Colo.

Elizabeth Brixey, the Missourian's education editor, is in the newsroom receiving updates and posting them online. The forum is supposed to go until 9 p.m. This live blog archive is presented in reverse chronological order. You can start reading from the beginning of our coverage by clicking here.

8:30 p.m.

OK, that's it for the forum at Jefferson Junior High School. Thursday's forum starts at 7 p.m. at Oakland Junior High School, 3405 Oakland Place. But wait! There's more — three forums yet to go next week at the middle schools.

Good night.

8:21 p.m.

Christine King, vice president of the school board, says 80 percent of African-American students in Columbia Public Schools come from poverty. "That's huge," King says. "When we don’t have the revenues we need, the people that it really impacts are those kids in poverty."

The forum is ending. A number of people are sticking around to talk.

There were more district board members and committee members present at tonight’s forum than  community members. About 10 community members and 20 people overall were there.

8:17 p.m.

LeAnn Stroupe wants to know what the district is doing in terms of recruitment to keep the teacher-students ratios up.

School board member Jan Mees says the funding from the state is going down and that the board is going to have to go to the public for a tax levy increase. "If we can't count on the state, we're going to have to go to our taxpayers."

She said that if the district doesn't have the funding, they're going to have make a lot of unpopular decisions.

The conversation is getting a bit away from the boundaries, and the focus is more on the students. The discussion has become about how poverty affects students in the classroom, if at all.

8:07 p.m.

Ryan McDaniels says approach A seems to make the most sense on the high school level. "It's my feeling that it doesn't make sense to drive past one school to get to another one."

Cody Abram: "Approach A looks likes you threw colors on the board." The maps are multicolored, each color corresponding to a school.

Committee member Paul Moessner responds humorously: "It looks like Jackson Pollock."

Don Ludwig is asked about the process the committee is going through to take in and evaluate public comments. He says that in December, the committee will take all comments and consider them when deciding which two approaches to recommend to the board.

8:03 p.m.

Cody Abram says tonight was the first night he realized the approaches could be mixed. There are three approaches, each with two maps — a map for proposed intermediate school boundaries and a map for proposed high school boundaries.

"I thought at first it was only approach A, approach B and approach C," Abram says. "When I look at all these, I see something that makes sense."

He really likes the idea of keeping cohorts together. "What I'm looking for is a sense of community. In my opinion, A high school and B intermediate makes the most sense."

7:54 p.m.

Steve Richardson has two children in public schools. "I’m here as a taxpayer first and foremost," Richardson says. "I'm a little bit set aside on the great emphasis on moving around demographics being a great area of concern.”

He said these that students' home environments are not going to change and that he just wants to make sure his tax dollars are spent wisely.

Ray Shapiro says he feels like there was a missed opportunity to address the academic achievement gap among students. He said he thinks the high schools should have been divided up into what type of schools they are or could be.

Shapiro suggested that each school could specialize in something different, such as the arts or college prep, and that students could be directed toward the right high school for them.

The discussion so far seems to be whether poverty has an effect on a child’s ability to learn. Some are stating that socioeconomic factors do not have an effect. Other community members believe they do.

Richardson says the issue with cohorts — that is, groups of children moving through school together — is phenomenal. He said he was born and raised in Columbia and went to Jefferson Junior. and Rock Bridge. Many of the friends he has now are people he’s known since elementary school.

7:45 p.m.

On-site reporter Brendan Gibbons says many community members seem to be talking about how the demographics of students will affect their academic performance.

7:40 p.m.

Don Ludwig explains there are five possible scenarios to look at. Approaches A and C can be mixed, but approach B makes the most sense when left as is.

Groups of community members are being formed around the room while they take a 10-minute break to process all the information that was just presented to them. Many are talking to the committee members who created the maps.

7:28 p.m

Don Ludwig explains the maps were formed taking into consideration walking distances for students. High school students living within two miles of their school and intermediate school students living within one mile of their school would be encouraged to walk to school unless they faced a potentially hazardous situation like busy roads or dangerous neighborhoods.

Ludwig begins to address the numbers: The maps show Jefferson’s percentage of students eligible for free and reduced-price lunch varies greatly among iterations. In approach B, it's 36 percent of the school’s population. In approach A, it's 48 percent. In approach C, it's 51 percent.

Ludwig explains that Hickman will have a very high population in 2013 in all three scenarios but that "it's for one year only."

7:15 p.m.

Don Ludwig, chairman of the secondary enrollment planning committee, has taken over the forum. He explains the guiding principles of the committee’s formation of boundary scenarios — for one thing, that members were not concerned with any individual school. They were focused on what is good for the district.

Ludwig says growth in Columbia is anticipated in the northeastern and southwestern parts of the city. This was an issue the committee considered when drawing boundary line scenarios.

Ludwig addresses a common topic at the previous forums: the transfer policy. He says the committee doesn’t have many answers to questions about the policy yet, but it will be recommending a policy to the Columbia School Board once boundaries are set.

7:08 p.m.

The boundaries for Jefferson are vastly different in all three scenarios. In approach A, Jefferson is well within Hickman lines. In approach B, it's in Rock Bridge territory, and in approach C, it's in Hickman again — but very close to the Battle boundary.

"This is the most signification realignment in our district’s history," according to a PowerPoint presentation from assistant superintendent for secondary education Wanda Brown.

6:59 p.m

Good evening, folks. We're at Jefferson Junior High School this evening for the fourth of eight community forums on boundary realignment in the Columbia Public School District.

This might be a short forum. About 10 people are present, excluding members of the secondary enrollment planning committee, which is charged with coming up with boundary scenarios.

Boundary maps are mounted on the walls of above school's hallways leading to the library.

Wanda Brown, assistant superintendent for secondary education, introduces herself. "You will see a lot of scenarios here tonight, but the one you won't see is the one that pleases everybody."


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