State education officials are proposing that one of the state’s 523 school districts be closed and absorbed by one of its neighboring districts. State Commissioner of Education Chris Nicastro meets with leaders of the Wellston and Normandy School Districts in St. Louis County, Monday night, to discuss having the troubled Wellston School District closed at the end of the current school year.
Jim Morris, Director of Public Information with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), says Wellston has been struggling for quite some time and was the first district to be taken over by the state.
“It became unaccredited, officially, in 2003 under State Board of Education standards,” said Morris. “It functioned for two years in unaccredited status and under state law, after that time, it lapsed or was subject to state intervention in 2005. Since that time Wellston has been governed by a special administrative board appointed by the State Board of Education.”
There have been some improvements at Wellston, which has about 500 students, but not enough to head off what is being proposed.
“Wellston has made some headway during that time, during the past four years, but it’s continued to struggle and its prospects for the future are not encouraging,” said Morris. “It has financial issues, very limited resources, and we’ve reached the conclusion – along with local school officials – that we think the best prospects, the best long term prospects, for Wellston students and Wellston families are to be found if they’re joined with a larger school district.”
It’s not just education standards that are lacking, the Wellston District’s buildings are in need of repair.
“Its buildings need work, they need renovation and upgrading,” said Morris. “The district really doesn’t have the money to do those things.”
Commissioner Nicastro will formally submit the recommendation to the State Board of Education at its December 17th meeting.