Columbia schools attendance boundary discussion affecting real estate market

A Columbia schools attendance boundary discussion has affected the real estate market. (Megan Sanchez/KRCG 13)

Amanda Beard, her husband, and her two children know a lot about moving. The military family has moved several times, but Beard said she had hoped Columbia would be their last stop for schools.

"You are literally going to get to finish your high school years at the same school," she said, explaining how she had been excited telling her daughters about staying in Columbia. "You'll have your same friends. You'll be able to do activities. You'll get to kind of form those relationships that you don't really have the opportunity to when you're in the military. Not even a year into it we're telling her that she's not going to have that opportunity."

Beard said now her youngest daughter could have to switch high schools her junior year.

Due to overcrowding at Gentry Middle School, a new middle school in south Columbia will open in 2020. Gentry reported over 900 students for the 2018-2019 school year. The new middle school will hold up to 650 students.

The construction of a new middle school caused the district to rearrange attendance boundary lines. The new attendance areas will take effect when the new middle school opens in August 2020.

The district hired Ohio-based consulting firm Cooperative Strategies to draw new boundary lines. Unlike in previous years, there was no committee assigned to this.

Usually parents and community members would apply to be part of the boundaries committee and move forward with decision making - but not this go-around. It is all up to Cooperative Strategies and the board will have to approve one of the options they come up with.

In September, the board approved a set of 'guiding principles' to be used while determining the boundary lines. The guidelines did not prohibit students from being moved to a new school in the middle of middle or high school, which sparked concerned in several parents.

At Monday night's Board of Education meeting, Cooperative Strategies presented their final recommendations to the board for both the boundaries and a transfer policy. The transfer policy would allow students to stay at their original school as long as they provide their own transportation.

In the proposed boundaries, children in Beard's neighborhood would go to Hickman High School. Her daughters currently attend Rock Bridge. One is a senior, but the student that is a freshman would be affected. She dances competitively at a studio located close to Rock Bridge, and her mother worries the change would not allow for her to get to practices on time.

Because of this, the Beard family's home is on the market. Beard said she is hopeful they can find a buyer and move into a different house, closer to Rock Bridge, ensuring they can stay at that school. She said because of the redistricting, they will most likely lose money on their home.

"It's difficult because there are so many other houses that have just come on the market that are also in the Jefferson Middle School district, so one, there's more inventory to choose from, but two, unfortunately we will take a hit on our house and the value will go down," she said.

Several other homes on Beard's street are for sale, and she said this is not a coincidence.

"Our neighbor right across the street just put his on the market, and it's already sold, for the exact same reason," she said.

The firm did hold open-house style meetings in January for parents and community members to provide feedback on the proposed options.

Cooperative Strategies Partner Scott Leopold said in October that it is possible to grandfather in students to ensure they complete middle and high school where they started, but in districts he's worked with that have done this, it's come with a high price tag.

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