With a seventh Columbia middle school scheduled to open in 2020, parents are concerned about a ripple effect for relocating high schoolers.
New Facebook group Start2Finish wants high schoolers to finish at the same high school where they started rather than being reassigned under new attendance boundaries.
“What I have heard is that incoming seniors would get to stay at their original high school instead of being forced to go to their newly assigned high school, and I feel like that’s not good enough,” said Jennifer Roberts, the founder of Start2Finish. “We want every high schooler to stay. We want no high schooler to be evicted and reassigned.”
Start2Finish was founded because of parents’ concern in Roberts’ neighborhood, Shepard Boulevard, which she said has potential to change attendance areas. Roberts’ daughter attends Rock Bridge High School.
Start2Finish wants high schoolers to be grandfathered in, so students would be able to finish at the same high school they started.
“I’m sure there are people in the city that are angry — we’re not,” Roberts said. “We understand. We value our school board members tremendously. They are excellent people we hold in high regard. Nothing definitive has happened, which makes it the perfect time to have this conversation.”
The boundaries will be redrawn for the entire district because a seventh middle school is opening in 2020. Groundbreaking is Oct. 11. Because it’s a middle school, all schools are affected. The Columbia School Board hired Ohio consultant Scott Leopold to make recommendations for new school attendance areas.
“Right now, we have been receiving a lot of inquiries from parents and at this point there have been no proposals. Those won’t come for a number of months yet. We’re happy to listen to suggestions, but the process is just now beginning,” Board President Jan Mees said.
A principle is in place that allows eighth- and 12th-graders to remain at their previous school as well as their siblings. Moving forward, the board wants to maintain that approach, Mees said.
However, there is nothing similar in place for freshmen, sophomores and juniors or sixth- and seventh-graders. Mees said she cannot venture a guess on how the board will handle them until members have more data from Leopold.
“We’re a small town, but I’m sure elementary- and middle-school parents have heard about it, and they’re concerned about it,” Roberts said.
Member Nicole Summerall said via email that her main concern was high schoolers who may be required to change schools in the middle of their high school career. Summerall has three children — in fifth, eighth and ninth grades — who attend Jefferson Middle School and Rock Bridge.
“At this point, nothing has been decided upon,” Mees said. “We recognize the emotional issues for families, and we hope through the process that we are deliberate and transparent and listen to all opinions and suggestions that are given to us.”
Start2Finish plans to attend the board meeting Monday evening to show public interest for a grandfathering-in approach. Kids are encouraged to attend in clothing that shows “school spirit.”
The meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. in the Aslin Administration Building, 1818 W. Worley St.
“This isn’t something I was looking forward to taking it on at all,” Roberts said. “It’s issues like this that truly affect us. These local issues have far more impact on our lives than any national issues of presidential elections or judge confirmations, though those issues are important, too. So I’m rolling up my sleeves, even though I don’t have the time.”
Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.