Columbia school board to discuss redistricting

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COLUMBIA –On Monday, board members for Columbia Public Schools will meet to discuss redistricting as an outside consultant presents his findings.

CPS is adding another middle school to combat issues related to overcrowding. School officials said they need to redistrict to balance out the population in each school and incorporate students into the new middle school. This needs to be done before the school opens in fall 2020. 

Scott Leopold was brought in as a consultant this summer. He helped draw up guiding principles, which the school board approved at the Sept. 10 meeting. Leopold's draft also addressed the district's policy on grandfathering and transfer opportunities as part of that process.

"Grandfathering" is when students have the option to stay at the school they currently attend, even if their assignment changes.

Some parents have voiced concerns already, and want the school board to adopt the proposed grandfathering policy. 

Nicole Summerall is a parent with one child in elementary school, one in middle school and one in high school. She said she knows her family will be affected, and is worried especially for her high school student.

“It would be hard for her, it was already agonizing trying out for the cheer team, trying to build relationships, going on a specific academic path,” Summerall said. “That doesn’t seem reasonable for them."

Summerall said she has even spoken with a realtor about the situation. She said that is a conversation going on in her neighborhood, and in lots of other neighborhoods.

Summerall said the realtor told her the last time there was redistricting, many people moved to stay at their same school, which only perpetuated the overcrowding.

Leopold's presentation Monday will focus on the district's "next steps" such as creating a project timeline and starting boundary planning.

His presentation is available online.

Michelle Baumstark, a spokesperson for Columbia Public Schools, said this is just the start, but parents will have a voice.

“We know this is an extremely emotional process and parents and families can become very passionate about what they want to see have happened,” Baumstark said. “We will continue to listen and ultimately have a recommendation to our board of education so that we can move forward with incorporating the new middle school into our school district.”

Baumstark said the final recommendation that will go to the school board will likely be in April, so families have more than a year to be able to adjust to the proposed changes.