In less than seven months, an influx of transfer students from the Kansas City School District could hit some Eastern Jackson County schools in pursuit of an accredited education.
While it is still uncertain whether the Blue Springs, Independence and Lee’s Summit school districts will have to accommodate these transfers, school officials are making preparations.
The Missouri Supreme Court ruled in December that students attending an unaccredited school district – such as Kansas City – should be able to enroll at neighboring, accredited districts.
If that ruling stands until the first day of school this August receiving districts need to be prepared. The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education issued guidelines late last year for the receiving districts. The major recommendations include that districts adopt and publish a policy for classroom size and student-teacher ratios by Jan. 15, and that parents with children currently attending Kansas City Public Schools should notify the accredited school they plan to enroll in for the next school year by Feb. 1.
The Blue Springs School District adopted a new classroom size policy this month. Kindergarten through second grades should have no more than 17 students per class, third and fourth grades 20 students, fifth and sixth grades 22 students, and seventh to 12th grades 25 students.
The Independence board policy says students will not be enrolled in grades with an average class size above the Missouri School Improvement Program Standards. The MSIP minimum standard for classroom sizes is 25 students for kindergarten through second grade, 27 for third and fourth grades, 30 for fifth and sixth grades and 33 for seventh through 12th grades. But the guidelines posted at the MSIP website also show a desirable standard of five fewer students in each grade level classroom. Also, Independence's board policy says building principals are responsible for enrollment and their decision is final.
Lee's Summit School District's classroom sizes vary each school year, depending on the financial, physical and staffing resources available. According to the board policy, the superintendent annually reviews target class sizes and recommends changes to the board when necessary. One clause notes the Board will not admit a non-resident student if the admission would cause the district to exceed the target class sizes or student-to-teacher ratios unless required by law to do so.
The DESE guidelines consider transferred students as non-residents within the receiving district.
"The DESE guidance is just that, guidance, and not binding in any way," writes Lee's Summit Communications Executive Director Janice Phelan. "With the issue of transfers still being debated in courts and being discussed by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Legislature, we continue to wrestle with the process of determining capacity and enrolling students for the 2014-15 school year."
But have any students and their parents or guardians from Kansas City Public Schools expressed interest in attending any of the accredited, Eastern Jackson County schools next school year?
Blue Springs spokeswoman Cara Anger says the district has received very few inquiries so far, Lee's Summit is not tracking inquiries from non-resident students wanting to enroll for next school year and Independence could not be reached for comment.