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School board delays vote on closing 11 city schools

COVENANT BLU/GRAND CENTER – To ensure that everybody has a chance to be heard, the St. Louis Board of Education has delayed until Jan. 12 a vote on a plan to shutter 11 schools.

But board members said Tuesday that they were done with delays and definitely would make a decision at that January meeting. Some members said they were peeved that opponents hadn’t spoken up up earlier.

Dorothy Rohde-Collins

“What has everybody been doing?” Board President Dorothy Rohde-Collins asked.

“I have some real concerns on the night of the vote we would come here only to postpone it,” Rohde-Collins said during a teleconference meeting held at Clyde C. Miller High School. “I don’t support postponing a vote.”

Board Vice President Susan R. Jones said she understood Rohde-Collins’ frustration about more delays. However, Jones said, “For me, it’s about doing our diligence.”

Seven of the closings would be in the northern part of the district, while four would be in the south. There are more people 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.

Clay Elementary, 3820 N. 14th Street

Under the 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.

Superintendent Kelvin Adams said at Tuesday’s meeting that the district started in December 2019 reviewing data to see how it could provide greater services.

“We knew at the time that we started our conversation that this would be a difficult conversation for the board, the community, for our students and staff,” Adams said.

The school board unanimously agreed to make decisions, even if it meant consolidating or closing schools, Adams said.

In May, the board postponed making a decision until this month.

Farragut Elementary, 4025 Sullivan Avenue

Since the announcement of the plan to close the 11 schools on Dec. 1, many have spoken in opposition.

The Board of Aldermen passed last week a resolution opposing the plan and noting the damage closings cause in an area.  It asks for a delay so more people can comment.

In Adams’ report to the board, he recommended the delay in making a decision until Jan. 12 so the public can have a chance to review the plan. He’d like to set up meetings throughout the holidays to discuss it.

 “What is incredibly clear to me is that this has been a conversation almost exclusively about buildings and neighborhoods, which some would say are more important, an adult agenda [rather] than a student agenda,” Adams said.

By eliminating some schools, the district would have more resources for the remaining schools, Adams said. Every school would have its own nurse and counselor. There would be more security, custodians and teachers.

“Losing a school is like a death,” Adams acknowledged. However, he said, “We are lacking providing the resources that our schools so desperately deserve.” He added, “We’ve listened to the community en masse.’’

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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