CPS redistricting hearings bring out numerous concerns

Columbia’s Secondary Enrollment Planning Committee recently completed a series of eight public forums where Columbia residents could gather and share opinions about the redistricting of Columbia Public Schools.

By Emily Giffin (Columbia, Mo.)

At each forum, planning committee member Don Ludwig first explained the details of the three current approaches to redistricting. They’re being called Approach A, B, and C.

Each approach offers boundary lines for schools at both the intermediate and high school level. And each creates a variety of different numbers for factors like enrollment, demographics, and travel time for students.

Main concerns at the forums were whether it was better to keep students at the elementary or intermediate level together and the potential for a transfer policy. Lisa Barfknecht currently has a 9th grader and 6th grader in Columbia Public Schools. She says she likes Approach B because it maintains consistency for the intermediate students.

“And I think it’s very true for my 9th grader. She doesn’t necessarily have the same elementary friends as she did before although she went to school with a lot of them; most of her friends have been from the middle school/ junior high era. I like that approach just because it keeps the 6th through 12th graders together,” Barfknecht said.

Questions raised about a transfer policy were met with concerns from others warning against making the policy too lenient. Wanda Brown is the assistant superintendent of secondary education.

She says she understands high school legacies within families and students wanting to attend a certain school. But she says there’s a limit.

“But at some point the numbers are going to have to dictate what’s right for kids. We can’t overstock one school and then have one under, so we’ve got to make good decisions… got to be based on the data,” Brown said.

Brown says the Columbia Board of Education will make the decision on a transfer policy. Other concerns brought up at the forums included the layout of student demographics, long travel distances, parent involvement in schools, and the schools’ ability to provide equal resources for its students. The planning committee will discuss public concerns and present two plans for intermediate boundaries and two plans for high school boundaries this week to the board of education. The board’s decision on the redistricting plan is expected early next year.