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JCPS hosts first of two meetings discussing boundary change options

JCPS hosts first of two meetings discussing boundary change options

Should they stay or should they go?

June 13th, 2018 by Phillip Sitter in Local News

Larry Linthacum, superintendent at Jefferson City Public Schools, uses a PowerPoint presentation to illustrate options for boundary line changes Tuesday, June 12, 2018, at Thomas Jefferson Middle School.

Photo by Mark Wilson /News Tribune.

Jefferson City Public Schools on Tuesday night hosted the first of two community boundary line meetings scheduled for this week — the other being 6-7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Lewis and Clark Middle School.

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JCPS hosted Tuesday's meeting at Thomas Jefferson Middle School for members of the community to give their insights on how they feel about proposed options for making some school attendance area boundary line changes in order to accommodate the addition of Capital City High School to the district.

"I'd be willing to drive out of the way for them," Scott Cisco said of what's most important in terms of deciding where his children go to school. Heritage, tradition or what high school's been newly constructed or renovated was not on the list of worries, rather his children having the best social environment for them.

Cisco agreed with Jennifer Crull that elementary school children should be able to stay with their childhood school friends through middle and high school.

Cisco and Crull happened to share a table Tuesday night in the cafeteria of Thomas Jefferson, and they live in an area near Cedar Hill Elementary School and the site of Capital City High School that could be most affected by a couple of the proposed options to adjust boundary lines in the district.

JCPS formed a boundary line committee of volunteers late last year to represent each of the district's elementary schools as the committee worked with a district-contracted demographer to form recommendations for the Board of Education on how to create equity in enrollment and poverty levels between Capital City High School and Jefferson City High School.

The committee worked to proposeĀ  adjustments of who in the district goes to which middle school — Lewis and Clark Middle School or Thomas Jefferson — to best ensure equity between the soon-to-be two high schools; Lewis and Clark will send its students to Jefferson City High School, and Thomas Jefferson will send its students to Capital City.

The committee last month narrowed its options for boundary line change scenarios to three options to put forth to the public for feedback before they give a recommendation to the district's board, which will make the final decision.

The first Option A would have about 40 students who live in a defined area near the site of CCHS and who currently attend Cedar Hill instead of South Elementary School. Cedar Hill students would go to Lewis and Clark and then JCHS, and South students would go to Thomas Jefferson and then CCHS.

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Cisco said he's moved his children before from West Elementary School to Cedar Hill, but that was his choice — another move to South would not be.

The second Option B would keep the students in the affected area together with their peers at Cedar Hill for elementary school, but they would still have to attend Thomas Jefferson instead of Lewis and Clark for middle school.

If finalized by the board, any proposed changes are planned to take effect in fall 2019.

Families in affected areas and with the means to transport their own children to school every day would have some more options through grace periods, though.

JCPS Superintendent Larry Linthacum — who led the presentation — explained that under Option A, Cedar Hill students who currently attend there would have the ability to finish elementary school there, though they would not have access to the bus to get to school.

As long as a current student is at Cedar Hill, Linthacum said a student's younger siblings could also attend there — but they'd have to leave as soon as their older brother or sister who opted to use the grace period left, though the younger siblings could ask for further special permission to stay and finish at Cedar Hill.

Siblings further behind them who never attended Cedar Hill with an older sibling first affected by any changes in fall 2019 would have to go to the neighborhood school designated for them under any changes. In other words, it would be possible that some families with elementary students in the area affected by Option A might eventually have some of their children attending Cedar Hill and others at South at the same time — but only if those families ever used the grace period to begin with.

Cisco and Crull ranked their preference for boundary line change scenarios as C-B-A.

The third Option C doesn't make any changes to the district's boundary lines, except for one that's consistent in all three of the scenarios — no longer have some Thorpe Gordon Elementary School students go to Lewis and Clark and some to Thomas Jefferson, but have them all stay together at Lewis and Clark.

Linthacum added Thorpe Gordon students who otherwise would be in sixth grade at Thomas Jefferson in fall 2019 would be able to attend there and then all of high school at Capital City if they wanted. Their younger siblings could also follow them to Thomas Jefferson and CCHS, though again, only as long as their older brother or sister would be there, before the younger siblings would have to ask for further special permission to stay.

Like the grace periods for Cedar Hill students, though, these students would no longer have access to use the bus to get to school, if they chose to attend a building other than that of what would be designated for their neighborhood through the changes.

Views on the pros and cons of all three options varied among the estimated 30 people in the cafeteria — Linthacum asked each table to come up with a list.

It was felt that Options A or B would save significant travel time for the potentially affected Cedar Hill families in getting to middle school and high school, instead of having to drive across town to Lewis and Clark and JCHS as they would have to now.

However, the concerns about potential social challenges for some students adjusting to new schools without most of their peers remained, though there was also some agreement it would be easier for students to make that change at the start of middle school under Option B instead of in elementary school under Option A.

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A couple tables, including Cisco and Crull's also raised the concern that property values would drop in the area that would be transferred from Cedar Hill's attendance area to South's under Option A — though they speculated home values in their area could also go up with them being in Capital City's attendance area.

Linthacum said while the three options presented could be the final three considered to be put forth to the board, they also might not be — it's whatever the committee's comfortable with.

He anticipated there would be a first read on the proposals at the board's July meeting, followed by a second meeting in August and then a final decision in August or September. The readings give the chance for members of the public to comment at the board meetings.

The board members present Tuesday — President Steve Bruce, Treasurer Lorelei Schwartz and Ken Enloe — said they hope the boundary line committee will come to them with one clear recommendation of a scenario based on the community's feedback.