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COLUMBIA – Starting Friday, Dec. 9, the redistricting committee for Columbia Public Schools elementary and secondary education can hold additional meetings ahead of public comment and feedback on Dec. 20. 

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.

One of the pressing issues of overcrowding is at the secondary level on Columbia’s south side. Gentry Middle School and Jefferson Middle School are at the heart of the discussion. Both schools feed into Rock Bridge High School.

“It has been a challenge to maintain those attendance areas over the last couple years in south Columbia,” Michelle Baumstark, community relations director for CPS, said.

According to superintendent Dr. Peter Stiepleman, Gentry’s capacity is around 700 students and has been challenged with well over 800 students in recent years. Projections over the next few years show Gentry eclipsing 900 students.

Jefferson is almost at full capacity, and enrollment projections show a steady increase even without redrawn district lines.

“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.”

Dr. Stiepleman said the long term goal is building a new middle school in south Columbia at a school board meeting in October.

In the short term the goal is to balance out Gentry and Jefferson before looking at feeder patterns in elementary schools.

"It is something that is an emotional process for our families, and we know that and we understand that," Baumstark said. "So we are trying to make decisions with as much parent and family input as possible."

Baumstark said the redistricting committee encourages families to look at the drafts and have public feedback ready for Dec. 20.