EducationFeaturedNewsThe NorthSider

Vote near on closing of 11 schools including Sumner

COVENANT BLU/GRAND CENTER – The loss of 11 schools will bring pain to the St. Louis Public Schools, Superintendent Kelvin R. Adams said Tuesday night. Balancing that, though, is the fact that the remaining schools will receive greater resources.

 “This is not necessarily a financial decision,” Adams said in a virtual town hall about the consolidation. “This is a decision around making sure that all of our students get the kind of services that they need to get.”

Kelvin Adams

Adams spoke to socially distanced Board of Education members in a meeting at the Clyde C. Miller High School. The public could watch through an online teleconference and could submit questions through a live chat. Questions were then read to board members and Adams.

While many of the questions were about individual schools, a major concern was about whether the closing were being done equitably throughout the district. Seven of the consolidations are in the northern part of the city, while four are in the south. More people live in south St. Louis than in north St. Louis.

After the board decides whether to approve the plan, resources would be distributed throughout the district based on the poverty level, Adams said.

Under a proposal, Clay, Dunbar, Farragut, Ford, Hickey, Monroe and Fanning elementary schools would close, as would Carnahan, Cleveland, Northwest and Sumner high schools. Carnahan would convert to a middle school over three years, while the ROTC program at Cleveland would move to another school.

The board will vote on the proposals at its meeting on Dec. 15. It was result of study and public engagement that started in the 2015-16 school year.

Factors in recommending the closings included the amount of change in a school’s enrollment and the population of the surrounding neighborhood, and the condition of the building.

A report by Adams said that after the consolidation, the district could offer more electives and advanced placement classes at high schools, increase school site budgets and hire full-time nurses, social worker-counselors and security officers for all schools.

The board is considering ways to reuse parts of the closed buildings, as it did when it relocated the old Central and Cleveland high schools to the former Southwest High School.

“If we would move an entire school from one building to another building, the school would still exist, but that building would still be in play,” Adams said.

The district should be able to transfer all of the teachers and administrators from the closed schools to other schools, Adams said.

In choosing to close Sumner, the district considered its historic tradition as the oldest African-American high school west of the Mississippi River. But the district also considered the sharp drop in enrollment and population of the surrounding area, Adams said.

The district is considering using the building for another purpose, Adams said.

As to why Carnahan school is being changed from a high school to a middle school, Adams said the district had more high schools than it needed but not enough middle schools. It’s a very small high school, he said.

Jim Merkel

southsidemerkel@gmail.com Born and raised in the St. Louis area, Jim Merkel covered communities throughout the area from 1991 to 2013 for the old Suburban Journals of Greater St. Louis. He is the author of five books about the Gateway City published by Reedy Press. The latest is Growing Up St. Louis: Looking Back Through the Decades. He and his wife, Lorraine, live in the Bevo Mill neighborhood of south St. Louis with Miss Jenny the Cat. For more about Jim, visit www.jimmerkelthewriter.com.

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