Students entering high school in the Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. have a choice whether to attend Columbus East or Columbus North.

Freshmen are assigned to one of the Columbus high schools as a matter of geography — living within the boundaries of that high school district.

However, if their families are willing to take responsibility for transportation, students can transfer from one to the other for nearly any reason.

For some, it’s the lure of joining a successful athletic program in a particular sport at the other high school. Other extra-curricular activities such as marching band sometimes come into play. And yet for other students, they transfer because friends go to the other high school — or other family members have.

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“What’s important to me and the school corporation is that people see that they’re comfortable,” BCSC Superintendent Jim Roberts said. “Each (of the high schools) have their various strengths and I think that’s something that parents pay attention to.”

Over the past five years, between 200 and 275 high school students in Columbus have switched their school colors from orange to blue or blue to orange each year — representing from 6 to 8 percent of the school district’s high school enrollment.

At the start of the current school year, 69 Columbus East students requested transfers to North and 132 Columbus North students asked for transfers to East, according to the district.

That does not include students who choose to attend the third BCSC high school, Columbus Signature Academy — New Tech, whose students keep their North or East affiliations while attending the school, often because of the technology-heavy curriculum in place.

Sports was a factor

Edgar Brito, who lives in the Columbus East district, is a freshman this year at Columbus North. He decided to transfer in part because many of his friends attend the school, but also because of his interest in sports.

Brito, a soccer player, personally toured both high schools. Afterward, Brito said he felt Columbus North had a stronger soccer program, a factor in his decision, which he discussed with his parents.

“They left it up to me,” he said.

Athletics was also a factor in Giovani Alejandro’s transfer decision.

Alejandro, who also lives in the Columbus East district, is now a sophomore at Columbus North with a full year under his belt.

During his freshman year, he found that he enjoyed the teaching style of educators at North.

“I was very happy with my decision,” Alejandro said. “They really care and want people to succeed.”

Alejandro’s decision was one that his mother, Michelle Yerges, supported.

“We had a meeting with his counselor at the end of middle school and she also agreed that the structure at North would be better for him,” Yerges said. “My number-one priority for him was academics and where I thought he would be more successful as a student.”

Yerges, a Columbus East graduate, said both she and her son have no regrets about the decision.

Socially, her son maintains friendships at both high schools, she said.

“It’s worked out pretty well,” she said.

Alejandro will also be joined by his 13-year-old sister Nayeli in a few years as the seventh-grader has also decided to attend North, Yerges said. She said the fact Alejandro already attends the school was one factor that led to her daughter’s decision.

In addition, she became interested in attending North after learning about its art program through an open house she attended, Yerges said.

Freshman Aden Voss said she considered athletic, academic and social factors in choosing North. She plans to play on the North girls basketball team, which has a statewide reputation for excellence.

“A lot of my friends were coming here and the basketball program here is better,” Voss said.

Family tradition

Freshman Kabir Maharjan, who also attends North, decided to make the switch for family reasons.

Maharjan, who participates in marching band, said he decided to go to school at North since his brother Kamal did.

“I knew I wanted to come here because of my brother’s experience,” Maharjan said. “I wanted to follow in his footsteps.”

Maharjan’s younger sister, Matina, is a seventh-grader at Northside Middle School and also plans to attend North, he said.

Alejandro encouraged anyone considering transferring to visit each school to learn about its environment, teachers, counselors and other staff members.

And if interested in sports, “go talk to the coaches and see how they are in general,” he said.

Comfort level

Columbus East senior Kaylin Miller is in her fourth and final year at the east-side school.

Miller, who lives in the North district, said she got a chance to shadow a student at East during an eighth-grade visit and immediately felt comfortable.

“It just felt so welcoming from the staff to the kids. Every person that I met, even though they didn’t know who I was, treated me like a part of the East family,” Miller said. “I felt like I belonged here.”

Miller, who is a cheerleader and also participates in track, said she settled on East after attending an open house.

“East grants ample freedom to its students, which teaches responsibility and prepares their students for the next step in their education,” Miller said. “To me, walking into Columbus East felt like walking into my own home, which has proven true because now as a senior my fellow East students and staff have become a family to me.”

Miller said her younger brother Jesse, a freshman at East, considered enrolling in their home district North. But he ultimately decided to transfer for a chance to play on the Olympians traditional powerhouse football team, she said.

“That’s his passion and I wanted him to be as successful as he could be,” Miller said. “I wanted him to go where he would do his best at.”

Miller said she thinks East provides a college-like atmosphere and described North as a more traditional high school.

“It’s an individual choice for families,” said Kristin Schuetz, director of the counseling department at East.

Miller said she has no regrets about her decision to transfer and gave credit to the staff, faculty and other individuals at East.

“They have definitely helped make my high school experience the best one that I could have ever imagined,” Miller said. “I’ve been really happy here and it’s shaped me into the person I was meant to be.”

But the decision to transfer is one that should be considered carefully, Miller said.

“Take the time to decide which one’s better,” she said. “Everyone’s different and everyone’s going to fit in a different place.”

Supporting choice

Columbus North Principal David Clark said North and East both have good things to offer to students, adding that the decision where to attend comes down to a family and personal choice.

“We’re two really great schools in a great community,” Clark said. “I’m happy that kids have a choice.”

Columbus East Principal Mark Newell said the district encourages families to look at the learning environments that North, East and Columbus Signature Academy — New Tech high schools each have to offer.

“It is nice that our families do have the option of choosing which learning environment they feel will best meet their needs,” Newell said.

While transfer requests are typically approved, students must be in good standing academically, said Bill Jensen, BCSC director of secondary education.

Transfer statistics over the last five years

Columbus North to Columbus East

2013-14: 166

2014-15: 141

2015-16: 164

2016-17: 175

2017-18: 132

Columbus East to Columbus North

2013-14: 84

2014-15: 76

2015-16: 72

2016-17: 100

2017-18: 69

Source: Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp.

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Matt Kent is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at 812-379-5712 or mkent@therepublic.com