The Ritenour school district has become the latest to decide it will not allow students who live in Normandy to transfer there in the coming school year.
The decision, announced Thursday night after a Ritenour board meeting, means that 78 students who had applied to transfer from Normandy will not be able to attend an accredited district when classes resume next month.
In a statement released late Thursday night, the board said:
“Because the Normandy Schools Collaborative does not have an accreditation status, Ritenour School District has made the difficult decision to adhere to its existing policy on admission of non-resident students. This policy dictates that we can no longer accept Normandy students who applied to re-enroll in Ritenour for the 2014-2015 school year because their home district is no longer unaccredited.
“We recognize that this decision is disappointing to the families of 78 Normandy students who applied to re-enroll in Ritenour schools. Thursday night’s decision was not made lightly.
“Ritenour has always believed that the foundation of a strong community is its public school system. Over the past year, Ritenour has worked with Missouri legislators and education leaders to help struggling school districts regain accreditation status. We fully support the Normandy Schools Collaborative as it works in new ways to attain accreditation and strengthen its community.”
Ritenour joins Francis Howell, Ferguson-Florissant, Pattonville and University City in deciding that they will no longer accept transfer students from Normandy. That option became possible when the state board of education decided that the new Normandy school district – known as the Normandy Schools Collaborative – will have no accreditation status at all in its first year of operation. The collaborative began on July 1, replacing the old Normandy school district.
In University City, the board voted last month not to accept Normandy transfers, fearing that test scores from Normandy students could hurt U. City’s chances to maintain full accreditation from the state. But after the decision prompted criticism, the board decided to hold a work session to discuss the issue, then possibly take another vote.
The earlier vote had been 3-3, but a board member who had to miss the meeting, Tom Peters, told the Post-Dispatch he would have voted to allow the transfers to continue.
The work session will be held next Thursday prior to the regularly scheduled board meeting.
Transfers from Normandy and Riverview Gardens began last year after the Missouri Supreme Court upheld a law, passed in 1993, that allows students living in unaccredited school districts to transfer to nearby accredited districts, with their home district paying for tuition and in some cases transportation as well.
Because the new Normandy is not unaccredited but has no accreditation status at all, receiving districts have the option not to accept transfers. But the state board also said that any students who transferred to one district last year could not transfer to any other district in the coming year, so if their old district no longer accepts transfers, they do not have the option to transfer elsewhere.
The lapse of the old Normandy district, and the creation of the collaborative, resulted at least in part from the financial drain on Normandy from paying tuition and transportation for transfer students. Receiving districts charged as much as $20,000 per student.
With Normandy now under state control, that tuition level has been cut sharply, to about $7,200. Districts that agree to keep receiving transfer students must agree to charge that tuition rate. State education officials have also urged that the same rate be charged for transfers from Riverview Gardens, though they have no authority to order that as they have for Normandy.
A wide-ranging bill that would have changed terms for student transfers, along with making other changes to state education policy, was vetoed by Gov. Jay Nixon. Among other reasons, he opposed a provision that would allow students to use public money to transfer to non-sectarian private schools if certain conditions were met.