CPS Redistricting could involve trailers at Jefferson Middle School
COLUMBIA - Redistricting for the next school year shows overcrowding concerns at the middle school level, most notably on Columbia's south side, could result in potential trailers at Jefferson Middle School.
Overcrowding has been an issue at Gentry Middle School, while Jefferson is just about at capacity. According to Columbia Public Schools, Gentry's building capacity is around 700 students and has over 850 students currently attending. The school's 13 trailers increase capacity to about 870 students.
Projections over the next few years show a steady increase in attendance for both schools.
The redistricting committee created drafts for attendance area changes at the beginning of the month and have settled on two main options for both the elementary and secondary levels.
Michelle Baumstark, community relations director for CPS, said a main goal is to maintain feeder patterns into high school. Both schools feed into Rock Bridge High School.
“The district really wants to maintain that feeder school pattern, so both Gentry and Jefferson will still feed into Rock Bridge High School, that’s not changing,” Baumstark said. “What will be changing is looking at different elementary schools and that feeder pattern.”
But before CPS focuses on elementary changes, it will first determine how to balance out population numbers in Gentry and Jefferson. Both plans would push Jefferson's attendance over capacity, which begs the question of trailers in a high traffic area next to Columbia College.
“It has been a challenge to maintain those attendance areas over the last couple years in south Columbia,” Baumstark said. "One of the district's long term goals for long range facilities is to eliminate trailers and we’ve made significant progress over the last several years with doing that."
Baumstark said CPS has reduced more than 100 trailers in the district since starting this initiative.
Traci Rogers, PTSA President at Jefferson, said trailers are a viable assumption if everyone does not fit, but she admitted she is not sure how they would fit in. Still, Rogers said growth is a good thing for the school and believes overcrowding will only be a short term consequence.
"It's temporary," she said. "I'd rather have trailers than overcrowded classes."
She mentioned other challenges that could arise with redistricting include driving to and from Jefferson during rush hour.
"A lot of people on the south side are concerned about the drive and what it would take in these high traffic times to get down to Jeff," she said.
Likewise, she said leaving Gentry could be a difficult move for some people.
"I'm sure there are people who are established at Gentry and I would think that would be a challenge, too," she said. "They have rising seventh and eighth graders and Gentry is what they know."
Overall, Rogers said looking at the positives of trailers or other obstacles is best.
"I've heard a lot of encouragement and positivity," she said. "It would be a neat change for Jeff to add to our families."
Superintendent Dr. Peter Stiepleman said back in October the long term goal is to build a new middle school in south Columbia around 2022.