By Kevin Murphy
KANSAS CITY, Mo (Reuters) - Officials reassured parents on Wednesday that the Kansas City School District's loss of accreditation will not keep students from getting high school diplomas.
The state of Missouri has announced it will remove the district's accreditation on January 1 because of chronic low performance scores on standardized tests. The district has been provisionally accredited since 2002 and now has two years to regain accreditation.
Interim Superintendent R. Stephen Green said the loss of accreditation was disappointing though understandable. He sees it as a challenge to the district.
"Student achievement remains our top priority and we will couple with this a focus on restoration and recovery of our accreditation status," Green said in a district news release. "We can, and we will, bounce back from this setback."
The district set up a phone bank Wednesday to answer questions about the loss of accreditation and will hold town hall meetings Wednesday and Thursday evenings to discuss its impact.
"Parents are worried about how this will affect their children," Eileen Houston-Stewart, executive director of public relations for the district, said Wednesday.
Parents who called the phone bank Wednesday were mainly concerned about whether students will be able to graduate with diplomas next spring and beyond, Houston-Stewart said.
Individual schools in the district remain accredited, Houston-Stewart said. District accreditation is a separate process, she said.
"Any children who graduate and meet all the course work requirements will graduate with a valid diploma," Houston-Stewart said.
Parents also questioned if they could enroll their children in other public school districts because of the loss of accreditation, Houston-Stewart said.
That remains uncertain, she said, in light of a court challenge to a state law regarding transfers in St. Louis, which also lost its accreditation.
The Kansas City School Board has approved a two-year turn-around plan to regain accreditation. It outlines goals for the board, teachers and students to improve student achievement and district accountability. If the plan fails, the state could take over the district.
"We are on the right track and we will keep working on this plan," Houston-Stewart said. "Parents have a role to play, too. We all have a stake in this."
(Editing by Mary Wisniewski and Jerry Norton)