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Hazelwood district says transfer pipeline is open

Hazelwood district says transfer pipeline is open

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The Hazelwood School District has begun enrolling students from the unaccredited Riverview Gardens and Normandy school districts under a court-sanctioned student transfer plan and will welcome as many new students as it has space to accommodate, a spokeswoman said Tuesday night. All three districts are in north St. Louis County.

So far, the Hazelwood district has accepted 43 transfer students from the two districts, said Diana Gulotta, assistant superintendent for communication for the Hazelwood district. Like the Ferguson-Florissant School District, which adopted its policies earlier, Hazelwood will accept direct student transfers into its district as well as transfers through the application process coordinated by the Cooperating School Districts of St. Louis County, she said.

“We will treat the students the same as we treat our own residents — that’s the law,” Gulotta said. “That’s what public education is.”

Area school districts have been grappling with how to handle transfers since the Missouri Supreme Court last month upheld a state law enabling students in unaccredited districts to transfer to other districts in the same or neighboring counties.

While some Normandy and Riverview Gardens officials have said they would like to keep their students, some parents and students in those districts say they’d like the opportunity to go to an accredited district with more financial and educational resources. Normandy and Riverview Gardens must pay tuition to the other districts and pay for transportation for students to one chosen district. Normandy selected Francis Howell School District, and Riverview Gardens chose Mehlville. Both are at least 20 miles away from the districts. Parents may select other, closer districts if they provide transportation for their children.

Gulotta said the number of students who will be able to transfer to Hazelwood will depend on the district’s classroom policy, which has not yet been set, and on the number of resident students who plan to attend in the fall.

In any case, she said, “We are going to take as many students as room will allow. We want to be very open and accommodating while balancing the needs of our own residents.”

Current class sizes in Hazelwood are in the low 20s for the lower grades, and from 28 to 33 for grades seven through 12.

The Ritenour and Ferguson-Florissant school boards voted last week to revise their policies on school transfers to say that students seeking to attend from outside the district will be accepted based on available space in classes.

The Kirkwood School District adopted similar guidelines Monday night.

The guidelines, which passed unanimously, base admittance into the district upon space availability and building capacity and also on the condition that no additional teachers will need to be hired and no resident students will be displaced to accommodate transfer students. Space permitting, the district will accept a maximum of 100 students from the unaccredited districts.

Kirkwood Superintendent Thomas Williams said that as of July 12, the district had received 11 applications from students from the unaccredited districts.

Post-Dispatch correspondent Todd Schuessler contributed to this report.

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Margaret S. Gillerman is a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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