Only slightly more Missouri students approved to transfer schools compared to last year



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JEFFERSON CITY, Missouri — More than 1,170 Missouri students from two failing school systems in the St. Louis area have been placed in other nearby districts for the upcoming school year, only slightly more than the nearly 1,150 students who switched from the Riverview Gardens and Normandy schools last year, new data show.

The slight increase in students leaving the failing schools this year is driven by a jump in transfers from Normandy, according to early estimates provided in an update to Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon this week.

So far about 550 students from Normandy have been placed in nearby districts, up from the 420 students who left Normandy last school year. District spokeswoman Cindy Gibson said more students applied to transfer — 639, including 245 new applicants — but some either missed the deadline, did not meet residency requirements or otherwise were denied because of procedural issues.

Candice Carter-Oliver, assistant superintendent of support services for Normandy, said she expects that number might drop once classes begin Aug. 17.

Carter-Oliver said the bump in transfers this year likely stems from lingering questions from parents after issues last school year, such as concerns with staffing changes. She said since last year, the school has worked to address staffing shortages and other issues, including adding back an honors program and Advanced Placement courses.

Transfers from Riverview Gardens appear to be down from last year, with about 620 students placed this year compared to 726 the year before. Spokeswoman Melanie Powell-Robinson said in a statement that "parents have indicated to us that they want their children to be educated in the communities where they reside."

The number of student transfers from both schools also is down from what it was in the 2013-2014 school year, when students first had the option to leave Normandy and Riverview Gardens. A little more than 2,200 left that year, split about evenly between the two districts.

District officials are aiming for this to be one of the last years students can leave under the transfer system. Carter-Oliver said the goal is for Normandy to gain provisional accreditation by the 2017-2018 school year.

The governor this year vetoed contested legislation touted by some lawmakers as a way to help struggling districts and their students but criticized by Nixon and others, who said it wouldn't provide relief for those schools. Republican House Majority Leader Rep. Mike Cierpiot, of Lee's Summit, said lawmakers don't plan on trying to override Nixon's veto.

The districts instead are resting their hopes on a new collaboration with other area schools, which have promised to provide resources and take other steps meant to help Normandy and Riverview regain accreditation.


Follow Summer Ballentine at https://www.twitter.com/esballentine.

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