The recent unanimous decision by the Missouri Supreme Court in what has been known as “The Turner Case” is sending shockwaves through several school districts in St. Charles and St. Louis Counties. The issue at hand, allowing the transfer of students in unaccredited school districts to districts that are within the same county or in a county adjacent to the county, will shuffle a projected 1,700 students within the St. Louis Metropolitan Area. So far, at least 24 school districts in four different counties will receive at least one student from the two unaccredited school districts in St. Louis County, Normandy School District and Riverview Gardens School District.
The law also requires unaccredited districts to pay for transportation costs of students to at least one school district. Normandy School District chose to pay transportation costs for students attending Francis Howell School District and Riverview Gardens chose to cover the costs of students traveling to the Mehlville School District. So far, more than 750 students in the Normandy School District plan to transfer to another district with about 43% of those declaring the Francis Howell School District as their first choice. Over half of the 945 students in the Riverview Gardens School District stated their intention to transfer to the Mehlville School District.
The two unaccredited districts will have to pay for tuition costs for the transfer students as well. Both of the schools chosen for busing have tuition costs below the average in the area, about $12,000. Francis Howell’s annual tuition cost for each student is $11,232 while Mehlville’s is far below the average at $8,471. Of the school districts receiving transfers, Clayton and Brentwood School Districts have the highest tuition costs at $19,862 and $16,511, respectively. Those tuition costs likely played a major factor in both of the unaccredited districts’ decisions on which districts to bus students to. The cheaper the tuition cost, the less the unaccredited districts have to pay, which is a serious consideration since the combined tab for transfer students’ tuition alone will most likely exceed $19 million. Mehlville’s superintendent has stated that the district can only handle 150 of the 475 students that have expressed an interest in attending the district. As a result, Riverview Gardens has stated it will select a second district to bus students to; the decision is expected later this week. Transportation costs for busing students to Francis Howell, Mehlville, and the yet to be named third district will likely add $2.5 million to the unaccredited districts’ bills.
Below is a map of the school districts in the St. Louis area. It shows the two unaccredited districts in red and the districts accepting transfer students in varying shades of green. The darker the green, the more in tuition costs will be paid to the district by Normandy and Riverview Gardens School Districts. This map estimates that Mehlville will accept all 475 student transfers, however this will likely change when Riverview Gardens School District names the second district to receive bussed students.