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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Consultants Recommend Closure of 29 City Schools

At tonight's meeting of the St. Louis Public Schools' (SLPS) Special Administrative Board (SAB), consultants presented a proposed Facilities Management Plan that calls for closing 29 schools. Speaking to a packed house at the Vashon High School auditorium, consultants from MGT of America summarized the findings of a Comprehensive Facilities Review as well as their recommendations for six phases of closures of, moves between and major renovation work at schools. The biggest -- and possibly only -- relief was that none of the city's four high schools will close.

The full text of the report is online here.

Here is the list of 18 outright closures recommended in phase one:

Ashland Branch
Clark (included in National Register Historic District)
Des Peres
Mark Twain
Nottingham (CAJT)
Shepard (included in National Register Historic District)
Turner (listed in National Register of Historic Places)
Meda P. Washington

In phase three, the following schools would be closed:
Ames (included in National Register Historic District)
Cote Brilliante
Mann (listed in National Register of Historic Places)
Shenandoah (included in National Register Historic District)
Simmons (listed in National Register of Historic Places)

These closures include one of the most troubling parts of the plan: recommendation of new elementary schools to replace clusters of three historic schools each on the north (Cote Brilliante, Hickey, Simmons) and south (Mann, Shenadoah, Shepard) sides. Shaw and Ames would combine in the present Blewett Middle School.

In phase four, the Northwest Law Academy building, an unmemorable edifice, would close. Gateway IT would follow in phase five. Furthermore, no currently closed schools -- inlcuding Cleveland High School -- would reopen.

Most of the schools on the closure list are historic buildings designed by school architects William B. Ittner and Rockwell Milligan.


Chris said...

How sad. When are we in St. Louis (and America) going to have an honest discussion of race and class, and how people's worldview of them affects our city? Four high schools for a population of 350,000!? And only one high school (Roosevelt) to serve an entire geographical half of an entire city?

LisaS said...

there's something a little chilling about seeing your child's school on a closure list, even if the intent is to move it to a different building.

Anonymous said...

Didn't we, the voters, just air condition these building? I thought this was the ticket to make these building useable and to improve educational performance.

Anonymous said...

Now high schools will be clowed and more fights and gangs. Why Gateway? Why not Sumner? Who care about the history of it now?

LisaS said...

yes, Anon #1, they just completed the A/c project last year. All the better to serve the new condo developer, eh?

(I really don't like having my cynical predictions vindicated.)

MH said...

Completely insane that new schools will be built and old ones shuttered. The new ones will be inferior in so many ways to a rehabbed historic building. Children need to be inspired by their surroundings and these new schools they build do very little of that.

Mellisa said...

This is insane Mann school was just redone in 1994 with a new paint new classrooms and new gym and school has computers for every student and it was just put air conditioning in every classroom last year . Than you want to close these close and build 2 new schools when that would be spending more money in the long run to build schools instead of using schools that already in good conditions .

Chris said...

Shouldn't we also be asking why parents don't want to send their children to SLPS? These schools wouldn't be closed if they were packed full of students. The closure of historic schools are the symptoms of much greater problems.

Maggie said...

I am a substitute teacher in the St Louis Public School System. I have seen all the problems facing the disadvantaged, and worked with other educators who strive tirelessly to teach them, and not just teach them their ABCs. They also must try to fill in the huge holes and gaps that prevent them from learning, i.e. hunger, malnutrition, neurological damage from toxins, the lack of prenatal care, the birth defects, the children given up for adoption and foster care, the absent fathers in prison, the lack of linguistic exposure, the absence of environmental enrichment, inadequate dental and medical care, the neighborhood crime and drug abuse, the neglect of their services, infrastructure, transportation, and mental health. It is also the result of a city racially divided and governed by men who place new runways for an underused airport above a mass transit system, a 1000 room hotel for conventions that never came here above low-income housing, a baseball stadium that was paid for by the poor to entertain the well off,
destruction of parks and green spaces for parking lots, and a private tow-lot publicly funded for the police to steal away cars from hard-working citizens. All this was placed above our public educational system.

The right to an equal education was written into Missouri┼Ť state constitution. As an economic crisis hits, we can not afford to divest in our public educational system. Privatization is not the answer, as it allows plunderers to steal our treasures, and idiot CEOs can run the schools into the ground and walk away with huge and grossly unjustified salaries, without an accounting. In St Louis this has been going on for many years, as you well know. If we give away our most precious assets in a fire sale we will succumb to disaster capitalism and wind up like New Orleans.

The SAB (State Appointed School Board) is doing this. Mayor Slay has publicly stated that he is in favor of charters. The recently announced recommendations of the non-St Louis private company MGT- America, hired for $625,000 to assess SLPS buildings, is to close 30 schools. Some of these schools, such as Shenandoah and Simmons, have many parents who volunteer to be aides to the principals, to the teachers in the classroom, and help in the halls, etc. They are proud of their neighborhood school, and walk their kids to and from it. Shenandoah´s preschool has a waiting list. The transfers and accompanying layoffs of (probably senior) teachers will have a very negative effect on the students, their families, their neighborhoods, and desolately result in larger teacher to student ratios. This is the antithesis to the actions we need to take, and even more so now that our country has hit the wall economically. People are our most important resource, and we
need to make public education our number one priority. If we did, we would be able to compete globally instead of falling farther behind. In a democracy, education is vital, and our abandonment of it has resulted in people unable to not be manipulated by the constant propaganda of bad government, as the past 20 years attest to. You get what you pay for, and our poorly educated population has allowed us to be driven over a cliff by electing corrupt politicians and their lobbyists who have stolen our public treasures to sell to their cronies.

One of the recommendations is to sell the school buildings for one dollar. Most of these buildings are the works of some of the greatest architects of the early 20th C. We need to keep these places of aesthetic joy alive, not get rid of them during a recession/depression. This `efficiency´ is thinly disguised robbery. And, to be honest, it smacks of ethnic cleansing. Slay has long wanted to rid the city of the blacks and gentrify it. Who will acquire the valuable property-- property that may be wasted and demolished to build town-homes for the upper classes, and sell the granite columns and facades, stained glass windows, tiled escarpments, the heavy oak balustrades, floors and doors, marble partitions and sculptures, after buying it lock,stock and barrel for one measly dollar? If it did not offend me so greatly, I would be hard pressed not to buy it only to part it out. We can not let this desecration happen.

The crisis will only turn around when we can compete globally. This means to build on the strongest foundation of public education we can, develop our resourcefulness in every citizen, and ascend the worlds ladder with educated, well trained workers, entrepreneurs, doctors, and inventors. Good teachers teach well because of the ineffable reward of bettering the life of a young person. There is no financial price on this as it is priceless and the teacher is underpaid, and, concomitantly, the primary goal of the school district should not be financial, or to operate in the black, but to pour money, brainpower, and care into the education of our children, and in this moment in history, get further into the red. It takes money to get money. Consumer spending used to account for more than two-thirds of the GDP. The government needs increase its spending to replace this portion of our economy that was lost. This is the essence of the stimulus package. The
payback will come if we spend it on human resources such as
education. And if we have the patience to wait one generation, our disadvantaged children will pay us back many times over with the societal blessings of a well-employed, healthier, content and law-abiding population. What we have now is the result of blatant neglect and disrespect for citizens of color, which started with a separate and unequal education.

Furthermore, we offer advanced degree scholarships to non-citizens in our time of need and we then allow them to return to their country and enrich it, be it India or China. I know it is because we can not find enough, if any, American students that are prepared to enter some of our programs, including in our State Universities such as Michigan or California. Soon their universities, as well as their secondary schools, will be better than ours.

samizdat said...

Wow, what she said...except for the whole ethnic cleansing thing. Slay's too stupid and not nearly Machiavellian enough. Frankly, from a logistical standpoint alone, the question is where does one put 175,000 people? Oh, and who's getting what under the table? Building three schools to replace nine. You people must be out of your minds! Throwing our architectural heritage on the trash heap because these morons can't manage their way out of a wet paper bag. Yeah, the A/C issue just absolutely infuriates me. Chris has a point, as well. How many parents don't even consider the SLPS simply because of what they've heard? I over heard two future parents (one woman pregnant, another and her husband "planning" for one) dismissing the SLPS for their children before either one of them HAD ANY CHILDREN! Crazy! Comdemnation by reputation.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone overlayed a map of the proposed school closures on a demographic map and/or a property value map of the city? The results might be interesting.

sonrie said...

I agree with anonymous above me -- that would be VERY interesting.