Parents and alumni waved signs in the Normandy High School parking lot, welcoming back students like sophomore Bryce Gales-Smith.
“You can’t walk away when it’s at its worst moment, got to help the school get back on its feet,” Gales-Smith says. “Get back the accreditation.”
But parent, Marla Smith, worries the district might go broke under the weight of transportation and tuition costs.
“I think our money should stay right here in our neighborhoods,” Gales-Smith says.
That mix of optimism, excitement and financial uncertainty could be found in the parking lot of Normandy High School on the first day of class for the unaccredited district.
Normandy lost around a quarter of its students, who are leaving to attend an accredited district in the same or adjoining county, a process made possible by a state law recently upheld by the Missouri Supreme Court.
(Go here to learn more about the school transfer process)
Under the law, Normandy must cover the tuition for students going to other schools this fall and the transportation costs to one accredited district. Normandy chose Francis Howell in St. Charles County as its transportation option, which was overwhelmingly selected by most parents who chose to transfer their children out of the district.
Normandy Superintendent Tyrone McNichols says he won’t know the financial toll the process will have until final enrollment numbers have been set.
“It’s a little over $15 million is what it looks like will be coming out of our budget right now based on the original number of students that were identified as transfer,” MicNichols says. “However, part of what’s not making that clear for us is that there are still kids who are enrolling here, and there are kids we’re hearing who are deciding to stay.”
McNichols also says community members may step in to help provide resources to the district, which currently has around $8 million in its reserve fund.
Missouri Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro has expressed concern that the district may run out of money this year. If that happens, Nicastro says she’ll ask state legislators to help Normandy cover its costs.
"Once we know that number then we will work with the legislature to secure the necessary funding to cover their tuition costs, their transportation costs, and the cost of providing their current program for their remaining students through the balance of this school year," Nicastro said during a conference call with reporters earlier this month.
Possible financial troubles aside, McNichols says there’s plenty of reason to be excited, pointing to new partnerships that will expand programs in Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) and literacy.
“I’m very excited about this day, this opportunity,” MicNichols says.
As for sophomore Gales-Smith, he says leaving for another school was never an option.
“I’m a true Viking, can’t let my school down.”
Follow Tim Lloyd on Twitter: @TimSLloyd