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Riverview Gardens, Mo., District Receives Provisional Accreditation

Nearly a decade after the Riverview Gardens school district in St. Louis lost its accreditation, it is poised to receive provisional accreditation early next year.

The Missouri Board of Education made the decision to upgrade the district's status on Friday, a decision that could lead to ending Riverview Garden's practice of having to pay to bus some of its students to neighboring districts.

Riverview Gardens is one of two school districts in the state without accreditation. The other is the Normandy Schools Collaborative (formerly Normandy school district), which the state took over in 2014. 

The district, of about 5,200 students, draws students from a number of St. Louis County municipalities, including the city of Ferguson.

The provisional accreditation, which goes into effect the first day of the next semester, is likely to end the expensive practice of paying to transport students from Riverview Gardens to accredited districts under the state's school transfer law.

In the last few years the district has paid about $23 million to bus students to 22 higher-performing districts and charter schools, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, even as the number of students participating in the school transfer program has declined.

Only 436 students remained in the program in the 2016-17 school year, down from 1,063 when the program started in 2013.

The districts in the transfer program will allow students to finish the school year where they are. (The districts will offer reduced tuition.) Others will permit students to continue their education there through 2021 or transfer to Riverview when they finish elementary, middle school, or reach other transition points, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

With Riverview Gardens no longer required to pay the cost of transportation, it will be difficult—and costly—for parents to transport their children to the other districts, the paper reported.

Riverview Gardens lost its accreditation in 2007, amid financial and academic decline under superintendent Henry Williamswho was accused of using district money for personal expenses, was fired and later charged with felony theft and tax fraud. The state took over the district in 2010.

The recent march toward accreditation started with the hiring of Scott Spurgeon in 2013, who put regaining accreditation as his top priority, the paper said.

Among the strategies he put in place were an emphasis on reading, aligning curriculum across schools, an early-childhood program, and expanding Advanced Placement courses.

The district gained enough points to qualify for accreditation last year—79.3 points—but the state wanted to see growth over time. This year it earned 74.3, a decline, but still more than it did in 2013.

Riverview Gardens Mo doe.JPG

The district still faces academic challenges.

While parents whose children currently attend Riverview Gardens expressed confidence in the district, some parents whose children are in the transfer program were looking for ways to keep their children in the transfer schools.

St. Louis Public Radio talked to some of those parents. One parent was considering looking for a job in another state. Another told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he was thinking of moving to the Parkway school district, where his daughter attends school, so she could continue her education there.

Image source: Missouri State Board of Education

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