Residents in the Ferguson-Florissant School District are speaking out against shuttering two historic schools in the district.
District administrators are trying to quell the rumors and say no decision on buildings has been made.
“I think the horse sort of got out of the barn when you hear the word ‘closing,’” superintendent Joseph Davis told St. Louis Public Radio.
Enrollment at the north St. Louis County district is down and schools are not at capacity. Davis said he’s been studying facility needs since he was hired in 2015 and wants to consider rearranging which grades are in specific buildings. The reassessment is about “potential opportunities” and not just closures, he said.
Still, “closing isn’t off the table,” Davis said.
“So we’re not going to say ‘no,’ because that could be a possibility,” he said. “What we’re examining is what’s the best use of our space. So we don’t know that just yet.”
The Ferguson Historical Society sent a letter to Ferguson-Florissant’s Board of Education that was also posted on a community Facebook page. The letter came after the idea of closing the two schools was floated at an October working session. The Facebook post received dozens of comments from people saying they’re saddened by the idea.
Central Elementary School, at 201 Wesley Avenue in Ferguson, opened in 1880 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Vogt Elementary is a half mile away at 200 Church Street. It opened in 1930.
“Hearing this makes me feel awful!!” Sara Penhale wrote on the Ferguson, Missouri Friends and Neighbors Facebook page. “In October I went to my 50th McCluer HS reunion and mini-reunions for both Central and Vogt were two of the highlights. We had a fabulous tour of the impressive Vogt School.”
Ferguson-Florissant school board President Robert Chabot’s kids attended Vogt Elementary. “I get the emotional part of it,” he said.
The district has about 10,400 students currently, several thousand fewer than a few years ago. Operating schools under capacity is costing the district money, Chabot said.
The district has scheduled what Chabot said will be the first of several town halls to receive community input for 7 p.m., Dec. 4, at Mcluer-South Berkeley High School.
“The last thing the school district wants is to have large, vacant school buildings in our communities,” Chabot said. “At the same time, our priority will always be doing what’s best for our students.”
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