Test scores. Overcrowded classrooms. The district's value — in measurable dollars and residents' way of living — and security. These are just a few of the issues raised Thursday night in the packed standing-room-only gym of Francis Howell Central High School.
The Francis Howell School District met with parents, students and residents in attendance at a public town hall forum to "provide information and address questions regarding the recent student transfer decision upheld by the Missouri Supreme Court," according to the event description listed online.
But, simply put, the issue is preparation.
The biggest concern about the situation facing the Francis Howell district, and the St. Charles community, is being prepared for the students that will transfer into Howell schools on the first day of school, Aug. 8, less than one month away.
Many questions were raised about how the district will handle the influx of students.
"We need answers," a resident said. "And we're not getting them from you."
"I would love to give you answers," Francis Howell School District Superintendent Pam Sloan responded. "I do not have them. We do not know, sitting here today, how many students we will have."
"How many spots do we have?"
"We have approximately 1,000 spots available today," Sloan replied. The district does not know how many enrollment spots will be filled by Francis Howell students, and how many of those will be filled by students transferring from unaccredited schools.
The issue facing the Francis Howell School District arose after Normandy School District, which is currently unaccredited, announced it will provide busing for students within its district that choose to enroll at a Francis Howell school.
A recent state supreme court ruling, in Breitenfeld v. Clayton, determined Mo. law mandates that accredited school districts throughout St. Louis admit any student residing in an unaccredited school district.
The ruling applies to two unaccredited districts in St. Louis — Riverview Gardens and Normandy — and has been a hot topic around schools throughout the area. That law might change soon with Senate Bill 125, delivered to Governor Jay Nixon on May 22 but yet to been signed into law, which might change the laws regarding school accreditation.
But it is only a possibility for now, with the Missouri legislature out of session, and St. Charles District 105 Representative Mark Parkinson said that Nixon is the only person with the authority to call them into a special session. Residents wanting to contact elected government officials can look up their own elected representatives by going to the Missouri General Assembly's website and entering their address on the Legislator Lookup page.
Until the law changes, school districts all across Missouri will need to abide by the Missouri Supreme Court's ruling.
Both Riverview Gardens and Normandy began accepting applications for student transfers at the beginning of July. Parents have until the close of business on Aug. 1, 2013 to apply for a transfer.
By Aug. 2, Sloan said, Francis Howell will know how many students will transfer into the district and which schools those children will attend.
Regardless of the concerns raised by their parents, children already enrolled in the school district will welcome the new students.
Eric Lee, senior class president at Francis Howell High, and Gavin Galanes, captain of the school's cross country team, offered a voice for Howell students.
"We would just like to say that we haven't had a lot of students here today," Lee said. "And we'd like to, as representatives of the student body at Francis Howell, say that we are happy to have these new students at our school. We think it will be a good opportunity. We think that, I don't think we can assume Normandy kids are going to be problems."
"Everyone I've talked to, no one's opposed to it," Galanes continued. "Everyone's excited about the new people coming and the opportunities that are going to be provided to them. Everyone here, no one has asked how the kids will feel about this. We understand that we're kids, and we're not the ones paying taxes, but we are the ones that are going to see them every day."