This fall the unaccredited Riverview Gardens School District in north St. Louis County will cover transportation costs for students who transfer to the accredited Mehlville School District, which is about 20 miles away.
Under guidelines issued by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) after the court’s ruling, unaccredited districts must pay tuition for students who transfer to an accredited district in the same or adjoining county.
But the unaccredited district must only cover transportation costs for one district.
Several parents like Bethanie Pollard said Mehlville is just too far away, and she’ll switch her work hours as a dental hygienist to get her child to another school district.
“Right now I’m looking at Parkway and Clayton for my children to go to school at, I will take them myself and pick them up myself,” Pollard said.
Others, like Dornece Estes, said they don’t have enough time to consider all their options before the Aug. 1 deadline when parents who want their students to transfer must fill out paperwork with the district.
“That’s not giving us enough time to do what we have to do as parents,” Estes said.
Superintendent Scott Spurgeon, on the other hand, said he is confident they made right decision.
“First and foremost we’re looking for a strong academic program, we believe Mehlville fits that description,” Spurgeon said. “We’re also looking for the opportunity for us to maintain some of our resources here in our home district to take care of those students that chose not to transfer, so we also looked at tuition costs in and around St. Louis County, that was the second criteria to make Mehlville our choice, and we believe we made a good choice.”
Spurgeon said it remains unclear how much the selection will cost the district because it's hard to know how many buses will be needed to take students on the approximately 25 to 27 minute trip and tuition rates for the coming school year have not been set. He said, however, that in the past, tuition has been comparable for both districts at around $9,500.
Though he feels Mehlville is a strong choice, Spurgeon hopes current Riverview Gardens' students will stay in the district while efforts are made to earn back accreditation.
“What I’m asking parents to do is to partner with us and give us the opportunity to create a true collaborative environment, and an academic rich environment, so that our students can excel,” Spurgeon said.
Spurgeon did not say what other districts were considered before administrators reached their decision, but said he did speak with Mehlville Superintendent Eric Knost after their choice was finalized.
“Their reaction was very positive, and their reaction was supportive in making sure that we take care of all of our children,” Spurgeon said.
But according to a statement on the Mehlville School District’s Facebook page, Knost has "significant concerns” about the potential influx of Riverview Gardens’ students.
Dr. Knost has significant concerns relating to Mehlville District’s current building capacities and current class sizes that are already above the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s (DESE) prescribed desirable numbers.
“We are currently reviewing our educational capacity throughout the district to determine how many transfer students can be accommodated. In the coming weeks we will work to comply with the law, the Missouri Supreme Court’s ruling and the decision of the Riverview Gardens School District Board of Education in a manner that is in the best interests of all children and families,” stated Knost.
The unaccredited Normandy School District in north St. Louis County recently selected the Francis Howell School District in St. Charles County.
Because the St. Louis Public School District has regained provisional accreditation, the transfer rules do not apply.
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