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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Adams Proposes 17, Not 29, School Closings

Tonight, St. Louis Public Schools (SLPS) Superintendent Kelvin Adams presented to the Special Administrative Board (SAB) his recommendations for school closures and consolidations. While consultants MGT of America had recommended 29 closures, Adams recommends 17. Adams' plan makes one wonder why MGT was hired at all, given how far off their plan was from the needs of the district identified by its superintendent.

Adams recommends closing the following schools in June 2009:
Ashland Branch
Baden Elementary School
Henry eMINTS Elemntary School
Clark eMINTS Elementary School
Big Picture at Des Peres School
Mark Twain Elementary School
Meda P. Washington Early Childhood Center
Scruggs Elementary School
Shepard Elementary School
Simmons-Marshall School
Blewett Middle School
Stowe Middle School
Big Picture at Turner School
Roosevelet Ninth Grade Center at Humboldt School
Big Picture at Kottmeyer School

Adams recommends closing the following schools in June 2011:
Cote Brilliante Elementary School
Mann Elementary eMINTS School
Sherman Elementary School

The following schools that MGT had proposed closing will remain open:
Gallaudet School
Patrick Henry Elementary School
Mallinckrodt Elementary School
Ames Elementary VPA School
Shaw Elementary VPS School
Shenandoah Elementary School
Hickey Elementary School
Bunche Middle School
L'Overture Middle School
Langston Middle School
McKinley Middle School
Stevens Middle School
Gateway High School (possibly in new building on site)
Nottingham CJAT School
Cleveland High @ Pruitt (no return to Cleveland)
Northwest Academy of Law

Adams retains the idea from MGT of constructing two new elementary schools -- one south and one north. The south side school will combine Mann and Sherman and astonishingly is proposed for the Mann School site.

Among other recommendations from Adams is a proposal to turn the 13 SLPS-run community education centers into full service schools along the line proposed by the Board of Education; and two new alternative schools that could occupy existing buildings that have scored an overall 70 or higher in MGT's survey.

Overall, the closures will save the district slightly less than $14 million.

The Special Administrative Board will make its final decision at a public meeting held on March 12, 2009.


Chris said...

Aaargh, how could a new building make better use of the Mann School's footprint than what is already there? Don't fix what isn't broken!

Rick Bonasch said...

What a strange process. It must cost millions of dollars per year to run each school, maybe $10,000,000 for some? So for the swing to be 12 schools, the budget swing is what, $50 - $100 million?

With the district's financial challenges having received so much attention in recent years, how can this process result in such major swings in spending?

cleeland said...

$10M to run each school? Where does a figure like that come from?

The districts financial challenges come from many things, but most significantly from two things:

1. Roberti and his era of ridiculousness
2. the State's general underfunding of education, and specifically the disparity in funding between per-pupil funding for charters vs. SLPS (according to DESE, charters get about $1000 more per student from the State)

Rick Bonasch said...

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in the 2006-2007 school year, the SLPS had 104 total schools, total revenues of $481,513,000, and total enrollment of 38,277.

Cost per student listed as $12,123.

Cost per school of $4,629,932.

A swing of 12 schools is a difference of $55,559,191.

The breakdown of revenues is:

$69.5 million federal
$226.1 million local
$185.8 million state

City taxpayers pay 47% of the total bill.

Missouri taxpayers pay 39% of the bill.

US taxpayers pay 14% of the total bill.

St. Louis city residents fall into all three categories.

$55,000,000 per year is a lot of money for a city of 350,000 residents.

Closing schools doesn't automatically reduce enrollment, and there's not a dollar for dollar pro-rata saving as suggested above, but it still must significantly lower the total outlay of the district.

38,277 students divided by 104 schools = 368 students per school. That's not a very big number.

Someone reading this blog probably has the data for 2007-2009. Please add more info to the discussion.

Rick Bonasch said...

Michael -

I read your post, and saw the $14 million dollar in savings figure attributed to the closure of 17 schools.

That's less than $1 M per school.

If the numbers from the Nat'l Center for Education Statistics are right, then the district is operating at somewhere around $480M for 100 schools.

With total budget numbers averaging over $4M per school, and the average savings from closing these 17 less than 1M per school , then something is very strange about the overall budget.

Higher costs on average for the schools staying open? Ridiculously high administrative costs for the district?

Does the district need to cut costs? How much?

If this move to close 17 schools saves only 14M, how much further does the district need to go?

Is there a financial target? As a city resident, and member of all three taxpayer classes footing the bill for the city schools, I'd like to know the financial projections and plans for reaching them.

Discussing how well the money is being spent and student success is another subject altogether.

LisaS said...

Rick, the closing of these schools relocates the students, their teachers, and other furnishings involved in their education, all of which would be included in your $4 million. Believe me when I tell you (parent of 2 SLPS students in 2 different magnets) that it is not implausible to me at all that only 25% of the money per school is involved in the physical infrastructure of maintenance (ha!), power, water, etc.

Also some of those costs are fixed things that don't go away with students: retiree benefits, bond service, etc. Even if we dissolved SLPS altogether we would still have those things to pay for.

Rick Bonasch said...


Thanks for the reply. Do we know the sort of financial track the district is trying to meet? I don't know.

Are they trying to go from the current $4xx million per year to $3xx million in say five years?

It's hard to have a discussion about closing schools, moving students, etc, without having an understanding of the overall financial strategy of the district.