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Schools Settle Deseg Case, Prepare for First Day

By Matt Sepic, KWMU

St. Louis – The St. Louis Public Schools may now use desegregation money to cover payroll and operating expenses.

The Board of Education has reached a final settlement with the NAACP, the state of Missouri and the U.S. Justice Department. The case was originally filed in 1972.

Board President Darnetta Clinkscale says the $49.5 million must be repaid within six years, but can be used immediately to offset the budget gap.

"We are happy to have reached this settlement, which provides additional assurance that this money will ultimately be used for construction of schools and classrooms," Clinkscale said.

In 1999 the state agreed to pay the St. Louis Schools $180 million over 10 years to buy land and build new schools.

School officials are also hoping to reverse the trend of low first-day attendance.

They say parents are key to making the first day, September 8th, a success, and are offering help.

Pre-registration is available at 100 locations throughout the city, rather than one as in previous years. Metro is giving parents free bus and train tickets to visit schools, and Mayor Francis Slay is giving some city employees time off.

"I have personally asked all city employees with children in the school system to take the morning off so they can take their kids to school," Slay said. "I think that sends a good message to parents and a good message to kids."

Slay is encouraging private employers to do the same.

School officials say a third of students usually miss the first day.