Columbia school boundary forum at Oakland focuses on ninth-graders

Thursday, November 10, 2011 | 10:43 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — Parents who attended the fifth of eight public forums on reorganizing school boundaries asked specific questions about the paths their children would take to graduation.

Conversation at the previous forums had focused on sweeping issues such as balancing the enrollment and demographics of Columbia’s schools as well as making transportation times and distances reasonable.

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The next forum will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. Nov. 15 at Smithton Middle School, 3600 W. Worley Street. 

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About 25 people attended the forum, which was held at Oakland Junior High School.

Much of the neighborhood around Oakland will be included into the Battle High School district. Battle High School is scheduled to open in August 2013.

Patricia Anglin said her house falls within the neighborhood designated for Rock Bridge but is surrounded by Battle territory in approach C. She said she understands why this was done — to balance out enrollment and demographics between the high schools — but she hopes her child can go to the same school as her friends.

“It would be nice for the friendships she’s made — that we’ve made — to be able to continue,” Anglin said.

Jim Muench, who has a ninth-grade student at Oakland, asked if this year’s ninth-graders could stay at the school they are districted for under the current boundaries if the committee’s decision puts them in Battle. That way, when changes take effect in the fall of 2013, they won’t have to start their 11th grade year at a new high school.

“We don’t want our daughter to have to start at one place and switch to finish up,” Muench said.

Chris Temporal has an 11th-grade student at Hickman and a ninth-grader at Oakland. She said although she likes Kim Presko, who was selected as principal of Battle this week, she wants her younger student to be at Hickman. She said she would ask for an individual transfer if the realignment puts her household in Battle.

Wanda Brown, assistant superintendent for secondary education, said about 320 out of this year’s ninth-grade students would have to make the transition to Battle for their 11th-grade year.

She said the school board will make a decision on its transfer policy in January or February after they have made their final decision on boundaries.

Darin Preis, one of the committee’s co-chairs, said the committee was aware that this year’s ninth-graders would have the most transitions if they are placed within Battle’s lines. But they won’t be the only ones changing schools, he said.

“What’s been lost in some of these conversations is that faculty will be transferring too,” Preis said.

Brown said district officials asked administrators from some Kansas City school districts for advice on opening a new high school. She said they advised to first choose a principal and then name prominent positions at the school, such as athletics director or band director.

Finding out who would be running these programs would make students excited about going to a new high school, she said.

“Please understand we do understand the ninth-grade issue, and the board has heard that,” Brown said. “One thing we have to do is to make Battle so exciting students would want to go there.”

“I think we can do that,” she added.

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