A change to school attendance areas known as plan D got the most support in an online survey, the Columbia School Board heard Thursday.

Karen Daniel-Hamberg from Cooperative Strategies, an educational planning company, presented feedback from the online survey. Summaries of feedback from open houses last week at Gentry, Jefferson and Lange middle schools were not ready yet and will be posted on the district website later.

The board decided earlier to review elementary attendance areas to see whether changes are needed to address population growth. Parkade Elementary School's attendance area will be changed because it is overcapacity, and those changes will take affect this fall, according to the district's website. Next, the remaining elementary school attendance areas will be addressed, and changes will take effect for the 2022-23 school year.

Feedback was taken on four possible scenarios — A, B, C and D.

According to the online surveys' results presented by Daniel-Hamberg:

  • 30% of respondents supported, 58% did not support plan A.
  • 24% of respondents supported, 66% did not support plan B.
  • 56% of respondents supported, 32% did not support plan C.
  • 60% of respondents supported, 30% did not support plan D.

Daniel-Hamberg said an average of 13% of all respondents were neutral on all plans. She said plan D got the most support as it moves the smallest number of children and has the least changes. 

"Parents enjoyed this option as it seemed normal after a year of disruptions from the pandemic," she said.

Parents who used the online survey option voiced concerns about longer bus rides and travel times, not being able to walk or bike to school and the negative impacts of moving low-income students.

Most of the more than 900 survey respondents identified with schools in southern Columbia, Daniel-Hamberg said: 241 people marked Beulah Ralph Elementary; 191 people marked Mill Creek Elementary; and 101 people marked Rock Bridge High School.

The board will vote on final recommendations affecting Parkade at its May 10 meeting and for the rest of the district at its June 9 meeting.

Superintendent Peter Stiepleman clarified that whichever plans the board chooses will not be the final versions, referring to them more as rough drafts.

Board policy requires the review of school attendance areas every year because of steady population growth in the district. The process for a review at the elementary level was delayed twice, first because the district was making changes to the middle and high school attendance areas and the second time because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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