COLUMBIA — Members of the Columbia School Board got their first look Thursday at a rough draft of a transfer policy to go with new school boundaries scheduled to take effect in fall 2013.
Under the proposed policy:
Students who will be juniors in the 2013-14 school year and are newly assigned that year to Rock Bridge or Hickman high schools would have the option to transfer to their new schools a year early — meaning next fall — so that they would be able to spend three years at the same school. These students are now ninth-graders.
If they are subject to boundary changes, siblings of students who will be seniors at Rock Bridge or Hickman in 2013-14 may request a transfer to the same high school the senior sibling attends. "The district will attempt to accommodate these transfers, subject to available space and eligibility as determined by the district," the proposed policy states. This would affect siblings who are sophomores or juniors in 2013-14.
In either case, requests would need to go to the district in writing by May 1.
The board plans to do a first read of the proposed policy at its next meeting, 6:30 p.m. Feb. 13 in the District Administration Building, 1818 W. Worley St. Public comment will be taken at that time. A vote on the finalized policy is expected to occur at the board's morning work session Feb. 23.
The new policy is needed because secondary school attendance areas are being changed to accommodate the opening of Battle High School in northeast Columbia and a switch to a setup in which sixth- through eighth-graders attend intermediate schools and ninth- through 12th-graders go to high schools. In its first year, Battle will not have seniors.
On Jan. 9, after a year of meetings and public forums, leaders of the Secondary Enrollment Planning Committee recommended scenario B for both intermediate and high school attendance areas. A final decision about new boundaries will be made at the Feb. 13 meeting.
Students who will be seniors in 2013-14 will not be required to move from their current high school.
At the morning work session Thursday, several board members expressed a desire to make sure the public is accurately informed about the boundary changes and related issues, including the transfer policy.
"Once we get a firm policy in place, we'll take it and disseminate it," Superintendent Chris Belcher said.
The draft transfer policy and the boundary changes dominated the discussion. One concern raised in recent months has been sending children who attended elementary school together to different intermediate schools.
Don Ludwig, co-chairman of the Secondary Enrollment Planning Committee, presented a look at the Spring Creek area in southwestern Columbia. In the 2013-14 school year, 15 students now at Mill Creek Elementary School will attend Jefferson Intermediate School while the majority of their peers will attend Gentry Intermediate School.
Christine King, board vice president, said the question being asked is why, if only 15 children in an area would be affected, couldn't they just go with their classmates?
One goal of the committee after public forums in April was to keep peer groups together. But members discovered this would be impossible to do and still balance enrollment and the number of students eligible for free and reduced-price lunch.
Board member Helen Wade said these types of moves could potentially create a domino effect.
"Every little group that we’ve heard from are smaller groups of people," Wade said. "But when you put them all together, you’ve got this huge issue that turns into a lot more than 15 kids."
King said splitting peer groups should not be a huge worry because students entering intermediate school will be immersed with other students from other schools.
Wanda Brown, assistant superintendent of secondary education, said plans are being discussed to provide support for students who will move to new schools, including "jump start" days in 2013 when students will get to visit their new intermediate or high schools a day early to go through their schedules, meet their teachers and participate in other activities.
"We know there needs to be a lot of community building and support for kids as they move from one building to another," Brown said.