Updated at 4:45 p.m. with comments from Francis Howell Central principal Sonny Arnel. Updated 5:39 p.m. with comments from parents and students.
Some transportation hiccups aside, the first day in the Francis Howell School District in St. Charles County appears to have gone smoothly.
The district took in 475 students from the unaccredited Normandy schools as part of the school transfer process. In addition to tuition costs, Normandy is paying for transportation out to St. Charles County.
"Each of the schools did a great job of processing the incoming families quickly and making each student feel welcome to their new school and our district," Francis Howell superintendent Pam Sloan said in an emailed statement. "Our FHSD student leaders and staff created a fun day for all new students to get acclimated to their schools and routines, thereby, easing some first-day jitters."
Francis Howell Central High School absorbed 54 students, the most of any in the district. Principal Sonny Arnel called the day incredible.
"It just seemed like it was normal, and the right place to be," he said. "I don’t think if you were to walk our halls today, or walk our halls three months from now, there’d be a difference."
Though the former Vikings were quickly welcomed as "family," Arnel says he'll continue to meet with them separately throughout the year, "just to kind of hear their student voice and making sure that we’re not missing something."
He says with 1,800 adolescents in the building, there will be conflicts, but expects few of them will have anything to do with the transfer program.
One bus that was supposed to take Normandy students to Francis Howell Central High School ended up at Francis Howell High School, about seven miles away. Arnel says students still made it to their first-hour classes.
"These kinds of complications often occur at the beginning of each year as new bus routines are established," Sloan said in her statement. "We will continue to work with the Normandy School District and their transportation provider to make the needed adjustments to ensure that students arrive to schools on time. "
Parents And Students Share Their Thoughts
"I didn’t know if the kids from the other district were going to be accepted or how everything was going to go, so we were nervous about that," says Alesha Bullock, the mother of a Hollenbeck Middle School student.
Bullock grew up attending St. Louis Public Schools, and knew children who were bused to other districts in the 80’s and 90’s. She was a little apprehensive on how things were going to go today.
"But I came out this morning and I checked out everything, and [there weren't any] protestors or [anything]. Nobody screaming,” she says.
Her daughter, who is in the eighth grade, said that things were pretty routine today, and that any premonitions she previously held about Normandy’s students were dismissed.
“From what I heard on the news about Normandy – they were bad, and they were saying Normandy’s school history, I kind of thought it was going to be a bad thing but it was really fun and peaceful today – just a little boring.”
38 students total were placed at Hollenbeck Middle School. Remember, the entire district, which consists of 18 schools, received 475 students, and Francis Howell Central High School received 54 new students, the most of any school within the District.
Sophomore Ava Mish said that nothing seemed out of place.
“With 2,000 kids adding about 40 more, you can’t tell," she says. "I think we’re kind of blowing this out of proportion. For those kids to travel this far to get a good education, they’re going to come here to learn.”
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