Q-and-A: Charter schools and transfer students, 2016-2017

As we get ready for the coming school year, we want to keep our school community informed about a new state law that affects public charter schools. In June 2016, Senate Bill 638 was signed into law. SB 638 will allow students from unaccredited districts the option to transfer to an approved public charter school. The bill goes into effect on August 28, 2016.

To keep you informed, we are sharing what we know about the option for students to transfer to public charter schools in 2016-2017. Please understand that we do not have all the answers because this is something new for the charter school community. Confluence Charter Schools is looking into the next steps so that we’re focused on the families and students who are making choices for their education. We will continue to share information with our families, students and staff as we can.


Which districts are unaccredited?
Currently, there are two unaccredited districts in the region – Normandy Schools Collaborative and Riverview Gardens. Students who attend school in either district are eligible to apply to an approved public charter school, one of which is Grand Center Arts Academy.


Why is Grand Center Arts Academy eligible to accept transfer students?
Grand Center Arts Academy, a Confluence Charter School, meets the requirements for an approved public charter school, which means they can enroll transfer students from Normandy and Riverview Gardens in 2016-2017.

GCAA is an approved public charter school, per SB 638, because it meets one of two requirements: a charter school that has existed for less than three years, or a charter school with a three-year average score of 70 percent or higher on its annual performance report. GCAA meets the requirement based on APR scores.

Confluence Charter Schools opened its first campus in 2003, which makes our schools some of the longest operating charter schools in St. Louis, surpassing the SB 638 requirement of existing for less than three years. In 2015, the APR scores for Confluence Academy-Old North, Confluence Academy-South City and Aspire Academy, formerly Confluence Academy-Walnut Park, were in the range of 60-65 percent. Confluence Preparatory Academy earned fewer points on the APR, which resulted in a lower percentage in 2015.

NOTE: APR scores for 2013 and 2014 cannot be compared to 2015 because of changes to the Missouri Assessment Program test.


What are the other approved charter schools in St. Louis?
Based on the definition of an approved charter school, the others include:

The Biome School, City Garden Montessori, EAGLE College Prep, Gateway Science Academy, Hawthorn Leadership School for Girls, KIPP St. Louis, La Salle Middle School, North Side Community School, Premier Charter School and St. Louis Language Immersion School.

Are there openings at GCAA to accept students?
GCAA enrolls students in grades 6-12. Openings are available at most grade levels as of late June 2016. Specific details on enrolling transfer students to GCAA are in the process of being coordinated.

Interested students can submit an application by August 1. Applications are available online at www.grandcenterartsacademy.org or in the GCAA office.

Grand Center Arts Academy is located at 711 North Grand Blvd., St. Louis, MO 63103.

Will transfer students pay tuition?
No, the families will not pay tuition, but their sending district will make payments. SB 638 allows charter schools to receive tuition payments from the sending district for transfer students.

The rate of tuition has not been determined for GCAA, but according to guidelines from the Missouri Charter Public School Association, tuition should be ‘equivalent to the per student cost of educating current students. However, if the total cost per student is higher than the sending district, you can only charge the equivalent to their total cost per student.’


Will transportation be provided?
GCAA does not provide transportation for any students. Parents of transfer students will have to provide transportation to and from school.

Can transfer students participate in school activities and sports?
Yes, students who transfer from Normandy and Riverview Gardens can participate in interscholastic activities under Missouri State High School Activities Association rules. Although GCAA does not have an athletic program, it’s a MSHAA member for music and chess.


Is the option to transfer to a charter school the same as VICC?
No, this transfer option is different from the Voluntary Inter-district Choice Corporation, or VICC desegregation program.

Students who attend GCAA through the VICC program reside in a St. Louis county school district that participates in the VICC desegregation transfer program. The VICC program doesn’t enroll African American students from county districts in schools in the city of St. Louis – public or charter. VICC was designed to integrate schools in St. Louis by opening enrollment to white students from the county who make the choice to attend city schools; in the reverse, black students from the city who make the choice to attend a school in the county can enroll in a participating VICC district.

Is there a deadline to apply to enroll at GCAA?
SB 638 goes into effect on August 28, but students who may want to transfer to a public charter school should notify their home district – Normandy or Riverview Gardens – by August 1, 2016.  

The process for transfer students to apply for admission to Grand Center Arts Academy is being developed, but applications from transfer students should be submitted by August 1. Interested parents may call (314) 533-1791 with questions.


When does school start?
The first day of school is Wednesday, August 17, 2016, for all Confluence Charter Schools.

The 2016-2017 academic calendar is online and www.grandcenterartsacademy.org
For more details about Missouri Senate Bill 638, please read the attached PDFs.