JEFFERSON CITY — A St. Charles County school district said Friday that students who transferred there from a struggling St. Louis County school system will not be allowed to return next school year.
About 410 students from the Normandy School District attended the Francis Howell School District this past school year under a 1993 Missouri law requiring unaccredited districts to pay for students who want to transfer. Francis Howell officials were expecting 350 students in the upcoming year.
Officials in Francis Howell pointed to board policy and actions by Missouri education officials as the reason transfers will not be allowed. State education officials are dissolving the Normandy district on June 30 and replacing it with the Normandy Schools Collaborative. Normandy has been unaccredited since the start of 2013, but the State Board of Education decided this week to classify the new Normandy collaborative as a state oversight district instead of as unaccredited.
Francis Howell has a policy of not accepting nonresident tuition-paying students unless required to do so by law, and Missouri's transfer law applies to unaccredited districts. District spokeswoman Jennifer Henry said Francis Howell is upholding a board policy in place since 2005.
"Now that the Normandy district is no longer unaccredited, we do not legally have to accept them," Henry said.
Normandy said it paid a little more than $4 million in tuition to Francis Howell this past school year along with $900,000 for transportation costs.
The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education said it would do everything it could to ensure a quality education for students.
"Unfortunately, the transfer program is not sustainable in its current form," the state agency said. "The State Board of Education is working to balance the need for choice with the educational needs of the students served in the Normandy Schools Collaborative."
Kit Crancer, state director for the education advocacy group StudentsFirst Missouri, said an overarching solution is needed.
"I'm disappointed that kids today have less options in failing schools than they did just last week," Crancer said. "That's the disappointing thing to me out of all this."
In addition on Friday, the Normandy district announced that it is dropping its lawsuit filed last month against state education officials and 20 St. Louis-area school districts.
"We were seeking a judicial remedy to address tuition payments, continued local control of the district and our accreditation status," Normandy School Board President William Humphrey said. "We believe the presence of the lawsuit caused (the education department) to respond to our concerns regarding our students and the district's future."
The State Board of Education on Monday adopted a new tuition calculation for Normandy that would limit payment to the districts that receive transfer students. The board also restricted additional students from transferring out of Normandy and appointed three members of a Joint Executive Governing Board that will oversee the school system.