As this school year winds down, families and schools in north St. Louis County are already looking ahead to next school year when students who are currently in a transfer program could switch schools.

Right now, Riverview Gardens School District foots the bill for about 430 students to attend other accredited schools after the Missouri State Board of Education striped the district of its accreditation in 2007. About 1,100 students initially enrolled in the program in 2013, but district leaders said only about 600 were students who had actually attended Riverview Gardens Schools before, while the others were paying for private school or being home schooled.

In January, Riverview Gardens School District regained accreditation. With that, it was no longer required by state law to provide tuition or transportation for students to attend accredited schools outside of the district. Still, in an effort to minimize disruptions to both students, families, and school districts, the change didn’t happen right away.

District officials said they have met with each of the districts where students ended up attending to create a Student Transition Enrollment Program (STEP), which outlines how students will transition out of surrounding districts as the current transfer program dissolves.

“Through agreements with several school districts, we were able to reach an agreement to offer our students to remain in their current schools and in those current districts at a rate of $7,000,” said Chaketa Riddle, Assistant Superintendent of Student Support Services.

Riddle noted that the actual cost of educating a student within the Riverview Gardens district is closer to $9,000 but $7,000 is the amount the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education provides. That cost is significantly less than some receiving districts were charging, as their cost to educate each student may have been higher than Riverview Gardens’ cost.

Riverview Gardens school officials provided News 4 a break-down of their arrangement with other districts. It shows districts including Brentwood, Clayton, Hancock Place, Jennings, KIPP, Kirkwood, Ladue, Lindbergh, Maplewood - Richmond Heights, Mehlville, Orchard Farms, St. Louis Public Schools, and Parkway accepted the arrangement. In those cases, students will transition out of the transfer program at the next natural bridge. For example, elementary students can stay at their current school until middle school, when they would have to change buildings anyway. Middle school students can stay through high school.

Two districts are only allowing high school seniors to return and finish out the 2017-2018 school year, including Ferguson-Florissant and Hazelwood.

Several other schools did not come to an agreement with Riverview Gardens, including Fort Zumwalt, Pattonville, and Ritenour. In those cases, students can choose to go to Riverview Gardens, pay for private school, or be homeschooled.

“We are ready to receive all students that live within the Riverview Gardens community,” said Riddle. “We want our parents to know as we come to a transition with student transfer program, that Riverview Gardens continues to strive to improve their academic gains. We want our families, as well as scholars who live in our community to know that this is a great choice to receive a great education and we are here. We are here to listen, we’re here to help, and most importantly, we are here to educate all students.”

Now, the Riverview Gardens School District is working to rebrand itself as a viable option for all students living within the district. Coming up in May, they will host an open house for the community to learn more about the district and how it’s changed in order to regain accreditation.

Copyright 2017 KMOV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved

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