St. Louis Public Radio News
9:26 pm
Thu December 17, 2009

Sumner given until March to improve

St. Louis – The St. Louis Public Schools superintendent says he wants to see Sumner High School improve its student safety, attendance and performance by March 2010.

If not, Kelvin Adams said at a school board meeting Thursday night, he will shutter the historic high school - the first black institution west of the Mississippi River - at the end of the school year.

Adams had considered closing Sumner immediately after several recent violent incidents, but instead agreed to give the community a chance to turn the school around.

"If the data indicate that we're moving in the right direction, then we'll look at a long-term solution for what needs to happen at Sumner," he said. "This is never really about this building. This is about the 660 students that are in that school, or the 574 that are there now, or the 148 that are failing on a regular due to their failure to come to school."

Sumner has the lowest attendance rate in the district. About 160 of the school's 575 students have been absent at least 10 days this year. Just 94 juniors and seniors are on track to graduate, and 200 students are failing at least one class.

The district will pay for an additional St. Louis Police officer to patrol the school six hours a day, Adams said. The footprint of the school will also be reduced by combining smaller classes and then closing down areas of the school to reduce student movement. There will also be incentive programs implemented for attendance and academics.

Adams will meet with Sumner staff and alumni on January 5th to lay out the benchmarks the school will have to meet by March. Alumni like Eric Oliver, a board member of the Sumner Alumni Association, said they are ready with their time and money.

"There are a lot of things due to budgetary constraints within the district we know that the students are not privy to being able to participate because of the fact that they've been cut out," Oliver said. "Well, we can come in and support that."