School boundary realignment committee to recommend approach B

Monday, December 19, 2011 | 9:16 p.m. CST; updated 10:38 p.m. CST, Monday, December 19, 2011

COLUMBIA — The secondary enrollment planning committee is finished. Now it’s up to the Columbia school board to finalize its pick of new attendance areas for Columbia’s schools.

At a meeting at the district's central administrative office on Monday, the committee decided the maps for approach B for intermediate and high school attendance areas will be those it recommends to the school board at its Jan. 9 meeting.

Changes to approach B

The secondary enrollment planning committee made some changes to the approach it will recommend to the school board Jan. 9. Here's a look at how the updated attendance areas for intermediate and high school approach B will affect schools' enrollment and demographics:

Original high school enrollment for 2013 (Oct. 27)

Battle High School: 1,529

Hickman High School: 1,924

Rock Bridge High School: 1,748

New high school enrollment for 2013 (Dec. 19)

Battle High School: 1,508

Hickman High School: 1,857

Rock Bridge High School: 1,835

Original intermediate school enrollment for 2013 (Oct. 27)

Gentry Intermediate School: 736

Jefferson Intermediate School: 540

Lange Intermediate School: 661

Oakland Intermediate School: 544

Smithton Intermediate School: 723

West Intermediate School: 729

New intermediate school enrollment for 2013 (Dec. 19)

Gentry Intermediate School: 693

Jefferson Intermediate School: 655

Lange Intermediate School: 674

Oakland Intermediate School: 511

Smithton Intermediate School: 711

West Intermediate School: 689

Original percentages of high school students receiving free and reduced-price lunches (Oct. 27)

Battle High School: 48.8 percent

Hickman High School: 34.3 percent

Rock Bridge High School: 24.2 percent

New percentages of high school students receiving free and reduced-price lunches (Dec. 19)

Battle High School: 47.8 percent

Hickman High School: 34.5 percent

Rock Bridge High School: 25 percent

Original percentages of intermediate school students receiving free and reduced-price lunches (Oct. 27)

Gentry Intermediate School: 25.4 percent

Jefferson Intermediate School: 36 percent

Lange Intermediate School: 53.7 percent

Oakland Intermediate School: 55 percent

Smithton Intermediate School: 36.7 percent

West Intermediate School: 44.9 percent

New percentages of intermediate school students receiving free and reduced-price lunches (Dec. 19)

Gentry Intermediate School: 23.7 percent

Jefferson Intermediate School: 38.4 percent

Lange Intermediate School: 53.9 percent

Oakland Intermediate School: 54.3 percent 

Smithton Intermediate School: 36.1 percent

West Intermediate School: 46 percent 

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The committee originally planned to recommend two sets of intermediate and high school maps to the board, but after reviewing the final options again, the members decided B was the best choice for the new boundaries. 

"We're more knowledgeable than the board (about attendance areas), with all due respect," said Don Ludwig, the committee’s chairman. Two school board members, Jan Mees and Jim Whitt, are part of the 22-member committee.

"A and C were both lightning rods," said Darin Preis, one of the committee’s co-chairs. He said B didn’t cause such divisive reactions at forums or in comments the district collected.

In the process of reconfiguring the district’s attendance areas to include Battle High School and change middle schools and junior high schools to intermediate schools serving grades six through eight, the committee looked at more than 140 boundary iterations. By Oct. 27, it had narrowed these to three intermediate school and three high school maps.

The district then held eight community forums throughout November and placed a comment section on its website to gather community feedback. After gathering more than 1,000 total comments, the committee went back to the maps to make minor adjustments in response to people's comments and criticism.

The maps the committee approved Monday differ slightly from those the public has seen. The changes to high school maps for approach B are:

• Moving the White Gate neighborhood in Blue Ridge Elementary School’s attendance area from Battle to Rock Bridge High School.

• Sending parts of Russell Boulevard and Grant elementary schools' attendance areas from Hickman High School to Rock Bridge.

• Expanding Battle’s boundary west to Highway VV in the northern part of the district’s territory.

These changes affected intermediate attendance areas in the following ways:

• Moving the White Gate neighborhood in Blue Ridge Elementary School's attendance area from Oakland Intermediate School to Jefferson Intermediate School.

• Sending parts of Russell Boulevard and Grant elementary schools' attendance areas from West Intermediate School to Jefferson.

• Moving Lange Intermediate School's boundaries west to Highway VV in the northern part of the district's territory.

• Sending parts of West, Grant and Lee elementary schools south of Green Meadows Road from Jefferson to Gentry Intermediate School.

• Sending the area of Russell Boulevard's attendance south of Chapel Hill Road from Gentry to Jefferson. 

If the board chooses to adopt these maps, 2013 enrollment at Battle and Hickman high schools will decrease, and Rock Bridge’s will increase compared to the original version of approach B.

The projected percentage of students receiving free and reduced-price lunches, a number the district uses as an indicator of the schools’ demographics, will also change slightly. Battle’s will go down 1 percentage point, Hickman’s will increase 0.2 percentage points and Rock Bridge's will increase 0.8 percentage points.

These changes will be more significant for the intermediate schools. Gentry will lose 43 students, Jefferson will gain 115, Lange will gain 13, Oakland will lose 33, Smithton will lose 12 and West will lose 40.

Free and reduced-price lunch percentages will also change for the intermediate schools. Gentry will decrease 1.7 percentage points, Jefferson will increase 2.4 percentage points, Lange will increase 0.2 percentage points, Oakland will decrease 0.7 percentage points, Smithton will decrease 0.6 percentage points and West will increase 1.1 percentage points.

These numbers are based on demographic information from 2010 developed by RSP and Associates, a consultant the committee has been working with throughout the process. Ludwig said he hopes to have updated information for 2011 before Jan. 9, but it might not be ready in time. RSP is also working on redistricting in several other school districts throughout the U.S., Ludwig said.

Uneven demographics among the schools has been a constant topic of debate throughout this process, and it came up again at the meeting Monday.

Wanda Brown, one of the committee’s co-chairs, said it might be useful for the district to take a look at schools’ percentages of students in poverty or near-poverty every four or five years.

Bill Lamberson, one of the committee’s members, said while criticism of the boundaries from parents will fade, having disproportionate numbers of low-income students at different schools could affect the district for years.

Darlene Grant, a committee member and assistant principal at Smithton Middle School, said as long as lower-income students receive enough support from their schools and the district, they will be successful in school.

Doug Harl, a guidance counselor at Oakland Junior High School and a committee member, agreed with this sentiment.

"What's getting lost in the the discussion is that you can have a really good school with high percentages of free and reduced lunch," Harl said. 

The Columbia school board will make its final decision on attendance areas for 2013 on Jan. 9. 

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Ray Shapiro December 20, 2011 | 2:29 p.m.

Personally I would rather have seen the creation of magnet high schools, with each having a specialty such as vocational/technical, academic four year college prep, arts/music/drama similar to the Lee elementary school approach and Douglass High for remedial needs.
Instead, the committee is suggesting that the Northeast area, Battle High take on almost 50% of deemed poverty students, while our South of town High School will have 25% deemed poor.
In effect, Battle High will have twice as many students from deemed poor households.
Why even use poverty levels as a reason to assign high schools?
So much for equality and "demographics" in Columbia.
("Ray Shapiro December 8, 2011 | 5:21 p.m.

So like I just looked at the "demographics" of our new ward boundary lines and discover that it's reported that the wards south of wards one, two and three contain around 5% black residents while each of wards one, two and three have around 18%.
I wonder who had these figures before organizing a big turnout at the council chambers advocating for their favorite option?
Seems like we could've just divided Columbia into a Northside and a Southside.
(Get to know your ward:)

(Report Comment)
Tracy Greever-Rice December 20, 2011 | 3:01 p.m.

"The maps the committee approved Monday differ slightly from those the public has seen."

When will a map be available that shows exactly how the bullets listed of the differences between Plan B that parents have seen and that the redistricting committee is recommending be public?

We're getting to the point in the school year where 9th graders are being asked to enroll and choose classes in the high school building they'll be assigned to their sophomore year. My son got his notice to talk to a Rock Bridge counselor in January. If he'll only spend one year at Rock Bridge before being forced to transfer to Hickman, he'd rather start at Hickman. Moving kids in the middle of their high school career is hard on kids and families - particularly for his cohort which will be moved TWICE, from their freshmen year in a Junior High, to a sophomore year at RBHS or HHS, to their junior and senior years at the opposite of where ever they spent their sophomore year.

Kids have decisions to make about course options and extracurricular activities. Being bounced from building to building will impact these kids moving through CPS high schools during this transition. They will on paper look less settled and less committed than kids who can join teams, clubs and other student activities and matriculate through the grades into positions of leadership. It would be great if CPS cared about what happens to these kids, they get only one shot to prepare themselves to be as competitive as they can possibly be for higher education...

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro December 20, 2011 | 3:39 p.m.

@Tracy Greever-Rice:
("Being bounced from building to building will impact these kids moving through CPS high schools during this transition. They will on paper look less settled and less committed than kids who can join teams, clubs and other student activities and matriculate through the grades into positions of leadership. It would be great if CPS cared about what happens to these kids, they get only one shot to prepare themselves to be as competitive as they can possibly be for higher education...")
I really don't understand this sentiment, from a logical standpoint,of what takes place during reorganization.
Where does moving from building to building impact competitiveness and a student's preparedness for higher education, should that be what the parent and high schooler choose as their next tier after high school?
Seems to me that most parents in this process are being "overly protective" of their kids, at the expense of a transition, flawed as this one may be.
I'm also amazed at how many parents conveyed that they want their children to be with their same "buds" from kindergarten to high school. Seems to me that that is very provincial thinking for a growing, diverse town like I thought Columbia was positioning itself to be.

(Report Comment)
mike mentor December 20, 2011 | 4:58 p.m.

There is a significant and legitimate concern for parents of children that will attend three different schools for the traditional four years of school that we always considered high school of 9-12. The relationships formed with teachers, coaches, and administrators can be an important part of the school experience and I think the teachers and students would both suffer under plans that move kids every year for 9, 10, and 11 grades. Research has also shown that the most significant factor involved in drug and alcohol abuse among the high school age group is of course the family and their peer groups. If they have formed solid peer groups to help each other avoid trouble through earlier age groups why split these up so often putting those kids at greater risk than if they stayed together. The kids are split up demographically from the begining, so it is not like the parents are demanding their children go to school with people that are all of the same demographic. The more times you uproot the relationships a teenager has with his peer groups, teachers, administrators, and coaches the more times you put that teenager at risk. You seemingly want parents to let you conduct social engineering experiments with their children without concern in the name of logic. That isn't going to happen. I am going to go out on a limb and guess you don't have any school age children or the peer and teacher relationships that would be lost in the constant shuffle would be inherently important to you as well.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro December 21, 2011 | 4:27 p.m.

@mike mentor:
What's important to me is that every child attending public high school in Columbia has an opportunity to pursue that which will be best for their individual talents, interests, motivation, accomplishments and capabilities.
Without any magnet high schools, our "neighborhood" high schools try to be self-contained everythings for everybody.
At the same time, I now find the committee's goal to balance demographics at integrating our high schools a dismal failure based on the figures they plan on presenting to the board.
At what point did they give in to the segregationists?
Also, my response to Tracy was fueled by her statement that: "They will on paper look less settled and less committed...") Her focus on appearances "on paper" led me to believe that she believes her child's list of attending different high schools in CPS would affect her child's "resume" for college.
I honestly believe that the parents who showed up at these meetings and wrote essays to the committee have a good number of "overly-worried" parents and unfortunately the children who are most at-risk had little parental input due to their own problems.
Each high school will have its fair share of juvenile delinquent problems, no matter what.
I have always been concerned at the amount of substance abuse, teen violence and racial tension that CPS fails to advertise. At the same time, reorganization as a result of the opening of a new high school should not be more of an inconvenience and a bit of a learning challenge about change if their parents, family and teachers provided their support and involvement during the youngster's formative years.
Also, if you have specific studies regarding how a new high school opening in an existing school district impacted student achievement because of their building changes or how with today's social media and the size of this town will make drug addicts out of our CPS youth, please post the links.
And as for "social engineering" I also propose that most high school students not be coddled with yellow school buses for transportation and either use city public transportation or other means to get to and from school. I also believe in closed campuses during lunch and suggest that school principals be responsible for ensuring meaningful, viable Parent/Teacher?Student Associations from K-12 with shifting decision making of these associations more to the student as they get into the high school level.
And believe me, if you will, I do in fact understand the emotions of parents.

(Report Comment)
mike mentor December 21, 2011 | 5:00 p.m.

I believe you do understand the emotional response you will get from parents because you got one from me and took it pretty much in stride ;-)

We can agree to disagree on some of this stuff. Don't like your idea on the busses. (Mom thinks the kids are thrown to the wolves on the yellow busses, I said it's good experience to be exposed to different age groups in somewhat controlled environment...)

I do like the idea of closed campus!

Have a good one.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro December 21, 2011 | 5:04 p.m.

To yours and U2 as well.

(Report Comment)
Tracy Greever-Rice December 21, 2011 | 6:07 p.m.

Ray, It will affect my son "on paper" (or digitally, if you will). The initial cut of college application reviews are done through application. He'll have to explain why he attended three different schools in four years - taking precious limited words out of his application essays to describe local school district policy shifts that sent him on a goose chase all around Columbia. I wish the college admission process were more personal and nuanced, yet he'll have to navigate that impersonal process the way it is - and will be at a disadvantage - albeit a small one - to kids with a stable high school trajectory of academic and extracurricular opportunities.

I'm just a little (not a lot) frustrated by CPS's ever-changing tune on how they will handle this transition. First the district's rhetoric last spring suggested that kids would be able to stay at the school they started high school in and the district would be introducing students into Battle a year at a time. Earlier this fall, they suggested students whose enrollment would be affected by redistricting would likely have the option of starting their sophomore year at the building they would be moved to by redistricting their junior year, thus giving them a consistent high school experience, comparable to kids not affected by redistricting. Now, that rhetoric is disappearing too and what we're hearing is the minimizing talk about how just a handful of kids in a couple of neighborhoods (barely any - just not enough to even fret about) will be shuffled from building to building AND the transfer policy will be STRICTLY enforced. That's a 180 from they started.

I understand that you don't think it's important what kids do to try to be competitive to attend the college of their choice. That's you're right. I can tell you, however, it seems very important to these kids as they try to plan for their futures. They worry about things like the fact that they won't be as likely to be selected for teams, roles in plays, leadership positions in bands, officers in clubs during their sophomore year because everyone will understand they're short-timers - and then they'll experience the same fate their junior year because relationships, talents, and interests will have already been recognized and established before they arrived mid-course.

I get it that not everything is life goes smoothly. But most parents reflexively want their kids to be treated fairly and have a shot at maximizing opportunity. The district started this process seemingly aware of these issues and with a commitment to mitigating the downside of the transition for as many kids as possible. And it now appears that commitment has disappeared. I just want to understand why the change of tune. And I want clarification on what they do plan to do as soon as possible so I can mitigate what will be a disjointed and disruptive high school experience for my son - because that's what the district has decided a handful of kids get.

(Report Comment)
Tracy Greever-Rice December 21, 2011 | 6:07 p.m.

And just to be clear, the actual shift my son will experience from RBHS to Hickman is totally fine w/ me. I think they're both great schools and I know he can thrive in either setting. It's the administrations willingness to pinball a few kids that's a shame.

(Report Comment)
Jimmy Bearfield December 21, 2011 | 7:55 p.m.

"He'll have to explain why he attended three different schools in four years - taking precious limited words out of his application essays to describe local school district policy shifts that sent him on a goose chase all around Columbia."

Due to redistricting, I attended three schools in four years.

That's 10 words. No biggee.

(Report Comment)
Tracy Greever-Rice December 21, 2011 | 8:28 p.m.

Okay, "Jimmy", and how will that info help the college application committees advocate for a kid who had this experience compared to those who can use those 10 words to describe an accomplishment?

I just want the district to own it. They're willing to disadvantage some kids for their larger policy agenda. Perhaps that's a reasonable decision. But they should be willing to acknowledge the harm they cause to some for the benefit of the many. And they should be willing to explain why they started the process trying to maximize outcomes but have given up on that goal. That's all. Giving me a hard time is a distraction (a red herring fallacious argument. period.), though if it gives you pleasure - well, hey, it's the holidays. Glad to oblige. :)

(Report Comment)
Jimmy Bearfield December 21, 2011 | 8:56 p.m.

Tracy, you're making mountains out of molehills. Why mention the number of schools at all? The admissions committee will be far more interested in your son's grades, GPA and extracirricular activities at those schools. It's not as if he has poor grades that would make the committee think he was booted out of the first two schools, right?

If it bothers you that much, your son could use the sentence to set up a discussion about what he learned from being around so many different people and in so many different environments.

(Report Comment)
mike mentor December 22, 2011 | 10:53 a.m.

I think Tracy's other points about roles in plays, leadership positions on athletic teams or the debate team or whatever, all play a role in the student's experience. It also matters when they apply for scholarships. There are many reasons we want our children to have the best experience possible. Parents will adapt if they feel like the district is trying their hardest to minimize the shuffling. If parents feel as though the district is treating these children like a herd of cattle with more regard to how easy it is for them to plan than for the childrens experience there will be problems. I promise you that!

(Report Comment)

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