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Kirkwood District offers limited spaces to student transfers from Riverview Gardens

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon July 31, 2013: The person who answered the phones for the Riverview Gardens School District was quite busy Wednesday morning. Phone calls are so plentiful that she cannot answer them all. Most of the calls apparently came from residents wanting confirmation that students could apply to Kirkwood School District this fall.

Yes, it’s true, she told them and offered instructions about where to go to apply for the transfers. This change of transfer policy apparently was made during a closed meeting last night of Riverview Gardens school officials. They previously had said the district would cover transportation only to students transferring to schools in the Mehlville School District.

Kirkwood was added in part because Mehlville has said it lacked classroom space to accept all Riverview Gardens students wishing to transfer. But space in the Kirkwood district will be limited, too. It says it can accommodate only about 100 transfer students.

It remains unclear what Riverview Gardens will do if the number of transfer slots in Mehlville and Kirkwood is not enough to accommodate the number of students seeking to transfer with transportation taken care of.

Riverview Gardens officials were unavailable to answer questions following last night’s closed meeting. No notice about the new policy has been posted on Riverview’s website. The superintendent, Scott Spurgeon, was said to be at a meeting away from the office and unavailable for comment.

Riverview Gardens' only confirmation of the new policy came from the wman who was answering the phone. She said had been instructed to inform parents and students who might call that Kirkwood had been added to the list.

The only other word about Riverview Gardens' decision came from an announcement on the Kirkwood district’s website. School Superintendent Tom Williams confirmed that Riverview Gardens had designated Kirkwood as the second transportation option for students seeking to transfer.

Williams said the district had space to accommodate about 100 transfer students. “This number will continue to change as we enroll resident students,” he said, adding that the district would work with parents and students to “ensure a smooth transition.”

Williams made several other points:

• For more than 25 years, Kirkwood has taken part in the voluntary school desegregation program, with more than 250 transfer students enrolled in Kirkwood schools under the program.

“Our students participating in this program have become a part of our school community as well as alumni and proud Pioneers. We believe we will have a similarly positive experience with transfer students from unaccredited school districts.”

• "No Kirkwood resident student will be displaced from a school to which he or she would otherwise be assigned to accommodate a nonresident student.

• "Our guidelines for class size remain the same as previous years. We will not place transfer students in classes that are full, and we will try to avoid adding sections/classrooms (adding staff)."

Williams urged parents to call him or principals about any concerns and that an informal meeting on the matter will be held on Aug. 6.

Robert Joiner has carved a niche in providing informed reporting about a range of medical issues. He won a Dennis A. Hunt Journalism Award for the Beacon’s "Worlds Apart" series on health-care disparities. His journalism experience includes working at the St. Louis American and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, where he was a beat reporter, wire editor, editorial writer, columnist, and member of the Washington bureau.