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.
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
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.