I read about the pending transfers of students from unaccredited school districts and ask myself one question: What about the children? The answer is not to send children on a daily 20-mile bus ride over potentially dangerous highways in an area known for dramatic weather changes. The answer is to work with the local school districts to improve the overall climate of respect for education in that area.
When I taught at Normandy Middle School from 2002 to 2005, we were told that 70 percent of our students were from single-parent families and over 90 percent of our students were receiving some form of subsidized lunches. It is hard for a family to prioritize education when the remaining parent in the household is more concerned with making a wage to shelter and feed their family. Students are only in school for 6 hours each day (25 percent of their daily life). What happens the rest of the time can easily undermine what happens at school.
School districts need to support the local families of their students. There are many social, religious and family support agencies in the area willing to support area families in all aspects of family needs. Last year, we in the Ferguson-Florissant School District sponsored two district business/social support fairs for our families. Our November fair saw 48 agencies represented at no cost to the district. Our social workers have lists of social agencies/religious groups that are willing to support our district families.
Sending students to another district further erodes local support for the district by costing transportation dollars and less state funding due to smaller student numbers. This money could be used in support programs such as after-school and enrichment programs.
It is time to face facts. A struggling school district is an effect of a struggling society it services. Once the district supports its local families, then local families will be empowered to support their local school district.
Charles Rimkus • St. Louis County
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