Lindbergh board approves policies on class size, nonresident students

Officials predict few requests to attend Lindbergh Schools

By Mike Anthony

The Lindbergh Board of Education voted last week to adopt a policy establishing class sizes and to amend a policy regarding the admission of nonresident students.

Board members voted 5-0 to approve the two measures, along with a set of guidelines for admitting students from unaccredited school districts, during a July 25 special meeting. Board member Kate Holloway was absent.

The board’s actions were taken in response to the Missouri Supreme Court’s June ruling in the Breitenfeld v. Clayton — formerly Turner v. Clayton — case.

In that case, the Supreme Court ruled that students residing in unaccredited districts may choose to attend another district in the same or adjoining counties.

Under Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education guidelines, the unaccredited, or sending district, must choose at least one accredited school district where they will transport students interested in a transfer.

Two unaccredited school districts — Riverview Gardens and Normandy — have selected the Mehlville School District and the Francis Howell School District, respectively, as their transportation districts. Because Mehlville has space for only 150 students, the Riverview Gardens board plans to select a second transportation district.

Director of Curriculum and Student Programs Eric Cochran told Lindbergh school board members last week that he does not expect the district to receive a large number of transfer students.

“… This is happening, again, in a very short period of time, where we are having to make decisions — many decisions on how this is actually going to be implemented and what it means for Lindbergh, and the policies and guidelines that we are presenting tonight have been carefully studied by myself and the cabinet. And they are our best efforts, I think, to try to deal with a somewhat complex and fluid situation,” he said.

“I think it’s important to mention at the start here that the current status of this, if nothing changes, I do not expect that Lindbergh will get a large number of students, as it sits right now. We have in our office received six to seven phone calls from families — max. We also have two students who have requested enrollment at Lindbergh through the Cooperating School Districts, who is helping to facilitate the implementation of this process …”

As an educator, Cochran noted his “natural instinct” is to be very accommodating to transfer students, but that must be balanced with Lindbergh maintaining its high quality of education.

“… I think I probably speak for most of the people in this room: We want to do what is best for students, no matter what boundaries they live in. And I can guarantee that everyone in our administrative team, everyone in our buildings would welcome any student that comes in from another district completely with open arms and we would do the best we can to educate them because that’s what we do,” he said. “And there is even a part of me that is excited about having an opportunity to do what we do best, which is educate children, and have even more students to have the opportunity to enjoy that education.

“That being said, we also have to balance the quality of education that we offer as well, and we have to take into consideration the potential that that quality could be compromised if, for some reason, the number of students that were to try to enroll in our district was something that we did not anticipate, was much larger than we expected.

“So we are trying to balance those two things … If there are students that are going to try to get into our district, come to our district and take advantage of our classes, we are going to welcome them with open arms, and we are here to serve them,” Cochran said.

Regarding the policy on class size, he said, “… This really is not anything different, I think, than what we typically do anyway. We’re always having target class sizes. The target class sizes that we’re looking at here tonight … are nothing new than what we’ve already had for years as a district. So we’re not changing those, we’re simply making it clear what those are.”

The policy regarding the admission of nonresident students is an extension of current policy, Cochran said, adding, “All it does is formally include students who are coming in to our district from districts that are unaccredited by the state of Missouri …”

As for the guidelines, he said, “… This is more a procedural set of guidelines, trying to make sure that our process is clear. We’re trying to make sure that our process is fair so that any student who wants to come to Lindbergh has an equal chance to do so, and that they know what that process is going to be …”

The approved guidelines formally establish target class sizes as 20 for kindergarten through second grade, 21 for grades three and four, 22 for grade five and 24 for middle school and high school.

The guidelines state, “Subject to space availability, up to 2 percent of the Lindbergh Schools student population will be accepted from unaccredited districts — 120 students max.”

In response to the district’s aggressive enrollment growth from local students, the Board of Education voted in June to establish a Demographic Task Force to study the issue and make recommendations to the board. The panel is expected to begin its work shortly after the start of school, and is expected to make its recommendations in late December or early January.

Regarding previous enrollment projections, Cochran told the board, “We’ve been looking as a team here recently at the enrollment just to see what we think we could be able to handle in the event that a large number of students would want to come to Lindbergh, and those enrollment projections are not only bearing out, but they’re actually even exceeding what we expected they were going to be when we made those projections … We looked at them today and those numbers are already in each building pretty much over what we thought they would be at this time …”

Before the board voted, board President Kathleen Kienstra said, “We have to remember the reason why we ran for the Board of Education and that is because we’ve always wanted to do what’s best for kids. And that also includes kids and staff, as well, and so the policies that Eric presented will help our teachers and administrators serve the Lindbergh students well, whether they live in our district or are seeking a better opportunity from unaccredited districts.”