The Columbia Board of Education approved changing attendance areas for middle and high school students at its meeting on Monday night.
Board members approved a revised version of “option 2,” as well as a transfer policy that includes some grandfathering.
Watch live video playback of the discussion in the video below.
The changes would take place starting in the 2020-21 school year. This comes as Columbia Public Schools prepares for the opening of a new middle school in southwest Columbia that year.
The board focused its attention on one of four options presented by its consultant, Cooperative Strategies, in January. Families living south of Nifong Boulevard and west of Forum Boulevard would attend the new school, moving them from Gentry and Jefferson middle schools. High school students living between Providence Road and Highway 63, south of Interstate 70, would move from Rock Bridge High School to Hickman High School the same year.
Several speakers highlighted the growing student population at Battle High School that receives free or reduced lunch as part of the move. Fifty-five percent of students at Battle will be on the program, while Rock Bridge High School’s population will fall from 24 to 18 percent. Some called the move a form of “structural oppression.”
“Any increase to Battle’s free and reduced lunch percentage is counter-balance to the district’s state equity goals,” said Amelia Howser, a former employee of Battle High School.
Leigh Spence, head of counseling services at Battle High School, said the school could use resources to help struggling students. One-third of the students struggle in some way academically, particularly with reading and math.
Parents have called on the board to consider policies that let current students stay at the high school where they started. CPS staff have prepared a “grandfathering” policy which lets current sophomores and juniors stay at their high school. Next year’s freshmen that must move will get to choose to either start their new high school for the 2019-20 school year, or move when boundary lines change the next school year.