Superintendent Talks School Boundaries and Testing Standards

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COLUMBIA - The Columbia Public School Board meets Monday. The agenda is stacked, but outgoing Superintendent Chris Belcher tells KOMU 8 what parents should keep an eye on.

At Monday's meeting, one new CPS board member and two incumbent members will be sworn into office. The board will also elect a president and vice president.

Two of the key issues listed on Monday night's agenda are updates on the Common Core Curriculum Standards and the attendance boundaries for a new Columbia elementary school.

Several board members asked Superintendent Belcher to give an update on Missouri legislation surrounding Common Core Standards. He said the new legislation is a compromise to some of the ongoing concerns that surround the standards.

"The new legislation being put forward is that Common Core still stands. The testing still stands, but there is going to be some leeway given to districts if they implement that so that they won't be punished if things don't turn out the way they planned," he said.

Common Core Standards create a baseline for schools to develop curricula against. Belcher said this is important for Columbia Public Schools because it helps compare its work with education happening across the country and internationally.

The board is scheduled to approve boundaries for the new elementary school set to open in 2015. The boundary for the new Eliot Battle elementary school will be "little square" around Route Z. The boundary will populate the school with about 360 students when it opens. That number was chosen to allow the school's population to grow over time. He said the boundary changes should only affect Two Mile Prairie and Lewis elementary schools.

"It compresses those two to a more central point," he said.

Belcher said incoming Superintendent, Dr. Peter Stiepleman led a discussion about proposed boundaries. Stieplman and a group of stakeholders narrowed ideas down to two boundary options, but ultimately one stood out as being the better option. It will be presented at Monday's meeting.

"This one is a small enough boundary with a limited number of neighborhoods involved that they're recommending one to come forward," he said. "It's always easier on boundary changes when all the students involved in the change are going to a brand new school."

The new elementary will be built in northeast Columbia next to Muriel Williams Battle High School next year. In February, the Columbia Board of Education announced the school would be named for Dr. Eliot Battle, Muriel Williams' husband. Dr. Battle passed away in June 2013, nine days after the Battle High School's dedication. Dr. Battle taught in Columbia schools for 40 years.

The Columbia Board of Education meeting begins at 1818 Worley Street at 6:30 p.m.

Click here to read the full meeting's agenda.