Four new maps showing possible attendance areas for Columbia’s new middle school were presented Thursday morning at a Columbia School Board meeting.
The district hired Cooperative Strategies as a consultant for the project. Scott Leopold, a representative of the company, presented the draft maps at the meeting. He emphasized they were drafts and were designed to help collect community feedback on the different options.
Randy Gooch, chief operations officer for the school board, introduced Leopold.
“While we’re starting to narrow this down some, we’re still not at a decision phase,” Gooch said.
The maps show not only middle school attendance boundaries but also where students from those schools would go to high school.
Options 1 and 2 maintain feeder patterns into the existing high schools except for Jefferson Middle School, which will feed to Hickman High School instead of Rock Bridge.
In options 3 and 4, students would attend different high schools. In Option 3, Jefferson students would go to both Hickman and Rock Bridge high schools, depending upon where they live. In Option 4, students from the new middle school and Smithton Middle School would attend high school at either Hickman or Rock Bridge. Jefferson and Gentry Middle School students would attend Rock Bridge or Battle High School.
Leopold emphasized that community feedback is very valuable to the decision-making process.
“These options are not set in stone,” Leopold said.
An online survey is open until Jan. 14 on the Columbia Public Schools website, where community members can choose their level of support for each option.
The district asked that community members watch Leopold’s presentation before completing the survey.
Community open houses will also be held to discuss the maps. Leopold said that these will be an opportunity to “talk about options with neighbors” and ask clarifying questions. The open houses will take place:
- 6 to 8 p.m. Jan. 9 in Gentry Middle School’s cafeteria.
- 6 to 8 p.m. Jan. 10 in Battle High School’s media center.
- 1 to 3 p.m. Jan. 11 at the Aslin Administration Building.
The district has also posted on its website an interactive map where families can enter their addresses and check how the various redefined boundaries would affect them and compare the options.
People in the focus groups the consultant held said balancing socioeconomic diversity and allowing students to attend the school closest to their home were important factors.
But perfect socioeconomic equality within the boundaries isn’t possible, Leopold said. A balanced socioeconomic sample map showed that the Battle High School and Hickman High School boundaries would be much larger than the Rock Bridge boundary.
Option 4 provided the best socioeconomic balance at the high school level.
Students may be unable to go to the school closest to home because of overcrowding at certain schools, Leopold said. For example, if students attended their closest school, Gentry Middle School would have 101 percent capacity while Jefferson Middle School would have 132 percent and the new middle school would only have 63 percent.
Public comment was not allowed at the informational meeting, which fewer than 20 people attended.
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