A desegregation program in a dozen St. Louis-area schools will continue for an additional five years. Leaders with the Voluntary Interdistrict Choice Corporation made the decision Friday morning.

The decision is important to students, both past and present.

A federal law passed in 1983 began allowing African American students in St. Louis to attend participating schools in suburban St. Louis County. Non-African American students in those districts were allowed to attend magnet schools in the city.

Harlan Hodge grew up in the city and was presented with the choice.

“My mother, thinking about our future and what the world would look like for us, thought that having a diverse environment would be great,” said Hodge.

Hodge, also concerned with his education, transferred to the Parkway School District and graduated in 1992.

Michael Okpara is a native of Nigeria who now lives in St. Louis. His four children are on a path similar to Hodge, transferring from the city to the Parkway School District.

“The most critical factor was being able to expose my children to culture that is very much diverse,” said Okpara.

The program that allowed the transfers was slated to end with the 2018-19 school year, but a vote Friday morning by the program's board gave a final extension to the transfers through the 2023-24 school year.

“For some legal reasons, race-based school integration programs can't last forever,” said VICC C.E.O. David Glaser. "But that doesn’t mean as a board we’re not looking at other options.”

Glaser said the board is now looking at ways to extend the program, possibly based on socioeconomic standing.

Superintendents on both ends of the program believe it offers the best opportunity for students to get quality education in a multi-cultural environment.

“We thought this was the best thing for kids, period, across the region, not just the 25,000 kids that we support,” said Dr. Kelvin Adams, St. Louis Public Schools Superintendent.

“Anything that we can discuss to make those opportunities more likely for kids is what we need to do,” added Dr. Eric Knost, superintendent of the Rockwood School District.

Although the program was extended, the number of students allowed to transfer will be reduced year by year.
Students already enrolled will be able to continue their school careers in the transfer districts and priority will be given to new applicants who already have siblings in the program.

You can read the full press release from the Voluntary Interdistrict Choice Corporation below, or click here.