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New school planning committees get started

Friday, June 22, 2007 | 2:00 p.m. CDT; updated 2:52 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A field trip is in store for several Columbia Public Schools administrators, teachers and parents.

In July, members of the planning committees for the two new schools will visit the Kansas City area to see how other districts are building schools.

The new schools will require redrawing district boundaries.

Members of the four committees responsible for helping design the district’s planned elementary and high schools and establishing new boundaries met for the first time today.

Superintendent Phyllis Chase said the elementary and secondary committees, which will provide input on the design of the new schools, will have an easier task ahead of them than the enrollment planning committees.

“For the enrollment planning committee, we have ordered full sets of body armor,” Chase said jokingly.

Leaders of the committees include Jack Jensen, assistant superintendent for elementary education, who will head the elementary committee; Wanda Brown, assistant superintendent for secondary education, who will head the secondary committee and Don Ludwig, former school board member, who will head both elementary and secondary enrollment planning committees. Committees will make recommendations to the school board, but ultimately the board will have the final say.

Ludwig, who has served as chairman for previous enrollment planning commissions, said that emotions will run high when the committee begins rethinking school boundaries.

“I don’t think we’ll need body armor, but our two committees will be dealing with parents who have a high interest in what we’re doing,” Ludwig said. “I’ve already had e-mails about what we’re planning to do.”

Timelines for each of the committees have been established already, but Jensen said committee members can expect revisions to the plans as discussions get underway.

The elementary committee will meet during the next six months, and ground breaking for the school is expected to take place in March and be completed by the start of the 2009-10 school year. A site has not been selected for the school yet. Meetings are planned for the secondary committee during the next year. Construction on the high school is set to begin late next summer and be completed for the start of the 2010-11 school year. On Thursday, the board approved the site at Rangeline and New Haven roads for the new high school.

Ludwig said the enrollment planning committees would let families know in advance about new school boundaries.

“All families will know one year before the school opens where they’re going to go, so they can think about it and make adjustments,” Ludwig said.

The committee will consider such criteria as building capacities, student composition, test scores, bus routes and natural boundaries of subdivisions when discussing which students will go to the new schools.

“We don’t want to skew it in one direction,” Ludwig said. “We’re going to be neutral and fair about the process.”

Time has been set aside for the committee to hold several public forums concerning the new boundaries.

“This committee will be highly technical and logistical,” Chase said. “Communication is a huge component of this.”


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