Jefferson City Public Schools on Wednesday night hosted the second of two scheduled community meetings on proposed school attendance boundary line changes, and about 35 people present pointed out the flaws of the district's current boundaries, which wouldn't be immediately fixed under any of the three proposed changes.
JCPS hosted the meeting at Lewis and Clark Middle School for members of the community to share opinions on the proposed options for making school attendance area boundary line changes in order to accommodate the addition of Capital City High School.
"You're right," JCPS Superintendent Larry Linthacum acknowledged of criticism the district's attendance boundaries as they are now don't necessarily create the ideal embodiments of neighborhood elementary or middle schools.
People pointed out that instead of being able to walk to school, some students have to ride the bus or be driven for lengthy amounts of time to get from one side of the Jefferson City area to the other — particularly students who go to Lewis and Clark on the east side of the city but who live in the far southwest corner of Cedar Hill Elementary School's attendance area near Lohman, or in the far northeastern corner of Callaway Hills Elementary School's area across the Missouri River in Tebbets or beyond.
On the elementary level, Thorpe Gordon Elementary School's boundary lines currently extend south to include students who could live across the Moreau River near Honey Creek State Wildlife Area but who go to school next to Jefferson City High School.
"To do that right is a three to five-year process," Linthacum said of what it would take to attempt to comprehensively redraw boundary lines for all the elementary schools in the district, adding there was only 428 days until Capital City High School opens.
"The decision was made to not start from scratch," he said of the process of redrawing boundary lines, adding there will be no wide-scale changes made to the three options proposed by the district's boundary line committee. After the committee puts a recommendation forward, the district's Board of Education will give final approval.
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 propose adjustments of who in the district goes to which middle school — Lewis and Clark or Thomas Jefferson Middle School — to best ensure equity between the soon-to-be two high schools; Lewis and Clark will send its students to JCHS, and Thomas Jefferson will send its students to CCHS.
The three boundary line change scenarios the committee decided to put forth to the public for feedback could affect up to three schools. In all three options, Thorpe Gordon's students would no longer be split in terms of which middle school they go. All Thorpe Gordon students would attend Lewis and Clark and then JCHS, whereas 58 students currently live in an attendance area of Thorpe Gordon's that sends students to Thomas Jefferson, JCPS Chief of Learning Brian Shindorf said.
Option A would affect Cedar Hill and South Elementary School — sending some students who live near the site of CCHS to South instead of Cedar Hill so they would attend Thomas Jefferson and then CCHS, instead of driving across town to Lewis and Clark and later go to JCHS as all other Cedar Hill students do.
Option B would keep all Cedar Hill students at Cedar Hill for the duration of elementary school, but the students in the same area near CCHS would go to Thomas Jefferson and CCHS anyway.
Option C makes no changes at all to the district's current boundary lines, with the exception of the adjustment to have all of Thorpe Gordon's students go to the same middle school and high school.
Grace periods would let some students in affected areas attend middle and high school where they would want to under any of the options, and that would extend in a more limited way to their siblings. However, the students who would utilize a grace period wouldn't have access to transportation if they decide to attend a school other than the one designated for their area.
If the first student in a family to use the grace period were to graduate before their younger siblings who might have followed them to the same school do, the younger siblings at that point would either have to switch schools or ask for special permission to stay.
Linthacum said the boundary line committee's still-unofficial recommendation is for the district to have a written policy in place to commit to re-examine boundary lines any time after two consecutive years when there's a 10 percent or greater difference between the percentages of students at each of the two high schools who are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch.
He added he hopes the district would look at boundary lines every three to five years.