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Columbia Board of Education plans for future attendance as new schools are in the works


Columbia Board of Education members on Wednesday night were presented with an update on the addition of three new schools being built within the district.

According to Chief Operations Officer of Columbia Public Schools Randall Gooch, additions to Russell Boulevard and Battle elementary schools are on track to open at the start of 2025-26 school year, while Southwest Elementary School will open the following year.

However, with the addition of the new school, there's a chance students may have to attend a new school. Boundaries have yet to be determined.

"So we'll have to take care of that because we'll have new capacity available, so we'll want to make sure we're utilizing that," Gooch said.

Gooch said the process into deciding where students will school is still in its early stages and will take months to finalize. A consultant will present ideas to the board during a December meeting, he said.

During that meeting, the consultant will also ask board members for additional guidance.

In January and February, focus groups will be hosted, consisting of parents, teachers and students who will be given the chance to offer their opinions. Then in March, an internal work group will answer questions for the consultant. The consultant will compile the information and give it to the board, who will ultimately decide on an option.

Gooch said that the process into redistricting students will occur in three phases.

Phase 1 will begin with the addition to Russell Elementary, Phase 2 occurs with the completion of additions at Battle Elementary and Phase 3 will occur with the completion of Southwest Elementary School. However, Gooch said the goal is to not have to move each student more than once during all three phases.

"Last time we did this we were able to not move anybody more than once," Gooch said. "So, we don't want to have a group of students that's moving one phase, and then the next phase they're moving someplace else."

Gooch noted that a new high school is not currently in the works to be built. Despite this, he said the district's plan is to examine the current capacity of each high school and determine if moving students around could create balance.

Gooch also said that once boundaries has been agreed upon, attendance maps will be posted online so students are able to view if, and where they are being moved to.

If a student or parent does not want to be moved to a new school, exceptions can be made, according to Gooch.

However, the decision is ultimately up to the school board. In past years, the district has allowed seniors to continue attending their current school, but a transfer policy could also be an option.

"They could initiate that, and sometimes then that is, you know, that's taken into account and there's some provision made for that."

Gooch also said that the district's decision to eliminate the use of trailers across schools is what has caused the attendance issues, noting that the district has to deal with more fixed capacities.

Article Topic Follows: Columbia Public Schools

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Nia Hinson


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