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CPS board unanimously changes attendance areas for elementary, middle schools

Columbia's Hickman High School
Columbia's Hickman High School

The Columbia School Board unanimously approved changes to attendance area boundaries Monday night that will move nearly 1,500 students to different schools by 2026.

The changes are expected to shift 1,179 elementary schoolers and 277 middle schoolers to other schools over the course of the rollout, starting in fall 2025. High school attendance areas will not be changed.

About 40 people attended the meeting, and many were offered maps of the current and redrawn boundaries. Karen Jackson, the representative for Columbia Public Schools’ realignment consultant Woolpert, walked the board through each of the changes.

The redrawn boundaries mainly account for the addition of a wing at Battle Elementary School and an elementary school in southwest Columbia, which is scheduled to open in 2026.

Monday’s vote approved the second and third phases of the district boundary changes. The first phase of changes was approved in April and will move about 60 students from Fairview Elementary School to Russell Boulevard Elementary School before the 2025-2026 school year.

Phase 2 changes will also occur before the 2025-2026 school year, while Phase 3 changes will occur before the 2026-2027 school year. A locator map that lists changes in attendance areas based on specific addresses is available on the district’s website.

Prior to the vote, board member Jeanne Snodgrass asked how incoming kindergarteners might be affected by the realignment.

She was concerned that some kindergarteners starting this fall would have to change schools before the 2025-2026 school year, which was something she hoped the district would avoid. Parents of these kindergarteners could be given the option to send their child to the school in their current boundary or to the school within their boundary after the lines are moved, she said.

Board President Suzette Waters said that exemption scenarios — plans that allow students in certain grades and their siblings to stay at their current school despite the attendance boundaries changing — would be further discussed in August.

Board member Blake Willoughby pointed out how close this would be to the start of the school year and suggested holding a special session sometime later this month to approve an exemption plan and get information out to parents.

Waters said that she and board Vice President John Lyman would work on selecting a date to discuss and vote on an exemption plan.

Phase 2

Phase 2 changes affect students at 14 of Columbia’s 21 elementary schools: Alpha Hart Lewis, Battle, Benton, Blue Ridge, Cedar Ridge, Derby Ridge, Midway Heights, New Haven, Parkade, Rock Bridge, Russell Boulevard, Shepard Boulevard, Two Mile Prairie and West Boulevard.

The changes also affect students at all seven district middle schools: Gentry, Jefferson, John Warner, Lange, Oakland, Smithton and West Middle School.

These are the changes that are expected to move students in the 2025-2026 school year:

  • Derby Ridge students living west of Range Line Street, including the Cross Creek and Shalimar Gardens neighborhoods, will move to Alpha Hart.
  • Blue Ridge students just west of Highway 63 and near Northland Drive will transfer to Derby Ridge. These moves will also transfer students living in those areas from Oakland to Lange.
  • Lange students living near Rice Road and Waterloo Drive will transfer to Oakland.
  • Blue Ridge students living northwest of the junction between Interstate 70 and Highway 63 will transfer to Shepard.
  • Alpha Hart will move students living near Indian Hills Park and Lake of the Woods Road to Battle.
  • Alpha Hart students living in the Southern View Acres and Wyatt Lane Acres neighborhoods will move to Two Mile Prairie.
  • Battle will also draw from Shepard, adding students from several neighborhoods west of Ballenger Lane. A pair of neighborhoods — Maxwell Manor and Praise Assembly — will move students from Oakland to Lange.
  • Several neighborhoods near St. Charles Road will move students from Shepard to Cedar Ridge, including Eastland Hills and McGary subdivision.
  • New Haven students living in a small area next to Highway 63 at the southern end of Ponderosa Street will move to Rock Bridge.
  • West Middle School students living north of I-70 in a group of neighborhoods, including Primrose Townhomes and Rosecliff Gardens, will transfer to Smithton.
  • Elementary students in a group of neighborhoods off West Broadway, including A.J. Estates and Charleston Court, will move from West Boulevard to Russell.
  • Students in the Banks and Poindexter neighborhoods who currently go to West Boulevard will transfer to Benton. Middle schoolers in this area will also move from West to Jefferson.
  • In south Columbia, students in part of Gentry’s current boundary, including Cedarbrook and The Cascades neighborhoods, will be transferred to John Warner. Gentry students in the Ashby West and Spring Creek neighborhoods will also transfer to John Warner.
  • Middle schoolers in the Hawthorne Heights and Maple Centre condominiums will transfer from John Warner to Gentry.

Phase 3

Phase 3 changes move students in nine district elementary schools: Beulah Ralph, Cedar Ridge, Fairview, Grant, Paxton Keeley, Mill Creek, New Haven, Rock Bridge and Russell Boulevard. No middle school boundaries will be affected.

Phase 3 also fills the new elementary school in southwest Columbia with students from Beulah Ralph, Rock Bridge and Mill Creek. Students will be drawn from the southern half of Beulah Ralph’s attendance area, the southern part of Mill Creek’s attendance area and a small section in the west of Rock Bridge’s attendance area.

The rest of the changes that are expected to move students in the 2026-2027 school year are as follows:

  • Cedar Ridge students living in the Big Timber, The Woodlands and Vedic Gardens neighborhoods will transfer to New Haven.
  • Some New Haven students living south of Grindstone Parkway and west of Rock Quarry Road will transfer to Rock Bridge.
  • Grant students living between Nifong Boulevard and Green Meadows Road and west of Bethel Street will transfer to Mill Creek.
  • Russell students living in the Country Club of Missouri area, including those off Woodrail Avenue and Woodhollow Drive, will move to Mill Creek.
  • Fairview students living in the Atkins Estates and Chapel Hill Estates neighborhoods will move to Russell.
  • Paxton Keeley students living in the rectangular area bordered by Fairview Road, Worley Street, Stadium Boulevard and West Broadway will transfer to Fairview.

Parent sit-in

A group of about 20 parents and community organizers attended the meeting to raise awareness of the lack of support the district’s Black students receive and how their achievement in the classroom lags because of it, organizer Brittany Fatoma said.

Fatoma and her allies have been attending and speaking at board meetings for months, she said. By showing up to this meeting in large numbers, Fatoma hopes the district will see how committed the group is.

“I have seen firsthand how education can fail students and teachers,” Fatoma said in an interview Monday morning. “Parents have had enough, and they want to speak out.”

Jordan Carter, a district parent, said her child has been identified as having behavior issues. In reality, her child just isn’t getting the support needed for success, she said.

“There needs to be support systems put in place,” Carter said. “There shouldn’t be a thought of, ‘White kids are better than Black kids.’ We should all be together.”

Special education task force

The board presented its progress toward the creation of a special education task force.

Board member April Ferrao said that Superintendent Brian Yearwood’s special education advisory committee sent out a survey to all families with Individualized Education Plans, and that objectives for this task force were written up using that survey’s results. A survey looking for parents interested in serving on the task force will go out July 15, Ferrao said.

According to Waters, the tentative objectives of the task force include: recommending communication that improves experiences of families receiving special services, making suggestions that streamline the evaluation process and identifying a consistent interpretation of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act for a districtwide application that adheres to federal law.

Willoughby said these objectives were good, but he was concerned that they may be too broad and hard to measure. He wanted to consider having district staff on the task force, so they could provide insight on what is actually possible for the district to provide.

Ferrao said that the task force’s first meeting will hopefully take place in September, but the task force isn’t finalized yet.

The Columbia Missourian is a community news organization managed by professional editors and staffed by Missouri School of Journalism students who do the reporting, design, copy editing, information graphics, photography and multimedia.
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