Normandy Schools kicks off its third year without accreditation Monday. Fellow north St. Louis County school district Riverview Gardens also remains unaccredited.
Saturday non-profit Beyond Housing held a resource fair designed to get families ready — and excited — for the school year.
Rickeisha Green was one of hundreds of parents who stopped by the fair with their children to get school supplies. Her son Floyd starts third grade at Lucas Crossing Elementary Monday, but Green said she wanted him to return to Ladue, where he went to first grade.
“Everything that Normandy is doing he had done already at Ladue. So it’s like he’s backtracking,” Green said.
State law allows Normandy students to transfer to neighboring school districts as long as it remains unaccredited, but Green said she didn’t learn about the April deadline to apply for a transfer until after it had passed.
“I’m kind of upset about that because I actually want him to go back to Ladue,” Green said, adding that she plans to apply for her son to transfer once the application re-opens in January. “So we’re just going to wait around and see what happens. I’m going to pray and let it be in God’s hands.”
Standing behind Green in line was Annette Boles, with her 7th-grader, Javion, and kindergartner, Asia.
Boles said her family moved to the St. Louis area from Warrenton last September and she decided to give Normandy a try, despite hearing negative things about the district on the news.
“I was familiar with (the school district’s lack of accreditation) before I moved up here, and it doesn’t concern me as long as they keep doing what they do and keep educating the kids,” Boles said. “I did have the option to put them in another school, but I chose not to. (I’m) going to give Normandy a try.”
Boles said she wanted to keep her children close to home so they don’t have to travel as far to school, but she will move her kids to another school if Normandy doesn’t work out.
Music, laughter, and light-hearted conversation filled the courtyard of Normandy High School for the fair, where a circle of social service agencies surrounded two giant bounce houses.
In addition to 1,500 backpacks full of school supplies — enough for almost half of the student population — health screenings, food and haircuts were also available.
“It’s really meant to be a celebratory atmosphere to start the school year,” said Chris Krehmeyer, CEO of Beyond Housing. “We want the kids to start the school year not only with the supplies they need, but more importantly with the energy and the enthusiasm and the knowledge … that this community is behind them and they’re going to support their individual success, which will lead to the collective success of the Normandy Schools Collaborative.”
Normandy Superintendent Charles Pearson said the event helps the school district work towards becoming accredited in two ways: “This gets at those things that have to happen before children walk through the door. But it also gets at the fact that this community needs to feel as if it’s going to continue to thrive,” Pearson said, adding that “Everything we do can’t help but be connected to the accreditation challenge. But for us accreditation is a two-year goal.”
Rev. Cedric Portis, vice-president of the district’s appointed school board, said the back-to-school fair helps Normandy get closer to accreditation by creating a positive experience.
“The more positive experiences you create (the more) we get the kids excited about going to school so that attendance will grow,” Portis said. “The energy that is surrounding the school district this year is more than I’ve seen in several years so therefore we’re looking forward to a positive year as we continue to go back towards accreditation.”
The Veiled Prophet Foundation and the Regional Business Council sponsored the fair.
Follow Camille Phillips on Twitter: @cmpcamille.