Reimagining Education

PARENT PERSPECTIVE: What happens when you lose school choice


Lisa Smith and Holly AdamsParents in the Riverview Gardens School District have had to face some difficult decisions over the past couple of years after the school district failed to meet state accreditation standards. Figuring out what to do after losing transportation to their school of choice could be the hardest decision they have ever made.

“Transferring was the best decision I ever made,” said Holly Adams, who has three children who have benefited from transferring to the Mehlville School District. She said she saw an almost immediate improvement in their grades and behavior. “They have been so helpful. My kids have made a lot of friends and there is no fighting. My 18-year-old liked Mehlville so much that she wants to make sure her sisters graduate from there.”

The new school was especially helpful for Adams’ autistic daughter.

“At Riverview, they just called me to come get her every other day,” said Adams. “But at Mehlville, they are putting a lot more into helping her. She has a one-on-one teacher that comes into the classroom with her. She doesn’t come home crying anymore.”

Loss of transportation threatens school choice

But for Adams, and many other parents who have benefited from the transfer program, keeping their kids in the school they chose for next year is much harder than it sounds.

Riverview Gardens regained provisional accreditation from the state this year which means that when school starts in the fall it will no longer be required to provide transportation for students who chose to attend a different district.

“When I heard that, it hurt, it hurt bad,” said Adams. “The first thing I thought was ‘Oh my God! I am going to have to send my kids back to Riverview.’”

Getting her kids to the schools that have provided such a transformational change for them will now mean a 35-minute drive through heavy traffic in a car that Adams does not currently have.

“Right now, I am unemployed,” said Adams. “It will be financially hard, but we have to do it. If I have to skip a rent payment to do it I will skip a rent payment so we can buy a car. That is how serious I am about my kids staying in Mehlville.”

Some parents still unsure of their children’s futures

Lisa Smith, another Riverview Gardens parent with children who have benefited from attending Mehlville, said she is just as determined to keep her kids out of Riverview Gardens, but with just a couple of months before school starts she does not yet have a plan for how she is going to do it.

“They want to go back to their schools, but without transportation, it will not be possible,” said Smith. “I am stuck in a place of not knowing right now. I do not know what school my kids are going to, but I do know that they will not go to Riverview.”

Smith said she will do whatever it takes to give her children different options after her first-grade son experienced two terrifying incidents when he attended Riverview Gardens.

“Homeschooling is a possibility for my son but my daughter will not get homeschooled because she is a teenager and I will not make her stay in the house. She will not go back to Riverview, so she will have to go somewhere else, but I don’t have any idea where that other school might be,” said Smith, adding that she is not sure how she will she balance homeschooling for her son with her current job. “I do have to get out and go to work. I am not a stay-at-home-mom, and I would not be able to survive financially if I had to do that. It will be hard.”

“It is all about choices,” she added. “I don’t have no other choice. I have to do whatever I have to do. It is overwhelming. I am putting everything with God and God will know what will happen.”

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