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Education

Students take an algebra quiz TuesStudents take an algebra quiz Tuesday at Lutheran HIgh  School North in north St. Louis day at Luthern Middle School North in north St. Louis County. The parochial school is planning to add middle school grades next fall.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

Lutheran High School North will add middle grades onto its campus in north St. Louis County next year, even as nearby Lutheran elementary schools struggle to attract enough students to stay open.

There are families looking for a more structured, Christian-based environment for middle school levels, school leaders said.

Cast a Line | Flickr

Funding for running school buses in Missouri could return to state funding goals within five years if the state education department’s request to the legislature is fulfilled.

Missouri education officials outlined a $6.3 billion budget for the 2020 fiscal year to the state Board of Education Tuesday, which asks state lawmakers for more transportation aid and per-student funding as part of a $140 million increase in its budget.

Peter Herschend listens to a presentation Thursday, June 14, 2018. He was appointed back to the Missouri State Board of Education this week after first serving from 1991 to 2017.
File photo | Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated Sept. 17 at 11:30 a.m. with comments from State Sen. Jamilah Nasheed — State Sen. Jamilah Nasheed objected to one of the governor’s four appointments to the Missouri State Board of Education, leaving Peter Herschend off the board after just three meetings.

Nasheed, D-St. Louis, held up a vote on Herschend Friday during a flurry of board appointments as part of a joint-veto and special session of the legislature. Gov. Mike Parson, a Republican, eventually withdrew the nomination.

File photo I Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

During a statewide tour on Tuesday, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson said he wants work with lawmakers to fix two bills during next week’s special session.

Parson vetoed a bill to increase STEM education in high school and another to expand alternative prosecution for drug abusers, known as drug courts. Despite the vetoes, Parson is making it clear he still supports the spirit of the laws and would rather see them reshaped than overridden by lawmakers as currently written.

Julie Dubray, co-author of the children's book "Goodnight St. Louis," reads to students at Koch Elementary Schools on March 2, 2017.
File photo | Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

Kelli Unnerstall’s son showed signs of dyslexia in kindergarten but was not formally diagnosed until fourth grade. In the meantime, “his frustration with school was growing every year,” she said.

“He hated reading. We were worried about him focusing. And unfortunately for my son, he was exhibiting all the characteristics of dyslexia back in kindergarten,” said Unnerstall, who is a co-founder of Decoding Dyslexia Missouri, a parent-advocacy group that pushed for the law.

Starting this school year, kindergarten through third graders in all Missouri public schools will go through a brief screening for warning signs of dyslexia. It’s part of a 2016 law that advocates say will give students the help they need sooner.

Sally Gacheru, center, tosses a ball to a child in Sakutiek, Kenya. Gacheru, who was born in Kenya but moved to St. Louis four years ago, was part of a service trip back home for fellow immigrant teens this month.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

It hit them that they were back home as soon as they were off they off the plane and in the crowded Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi.

“And there was a long queue [at customs], a long, long queue. And I just knew I was in Kenya right there,” Victor Rotich said, days later and hours away from the capital, in the small village of Sakutiek.

LA Johnson | NPR

Like many states, Illinois is facing a teacher shortage.

The Illinois State Board of Education estimates more than 2,000 positions remained vacant during the 2016-17 school year, including teaching, administrative and support staff.

Earlier this month, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner signed into law a slew of legislation intended to alleviate the state’s teacher shortage. But some teachers and union leaders doubt the measures are enough.

House Republicans talk during the last day of the legislative session. May 17, 2017
File photo I Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri public school teachers educate their students on civics and the workings of government, but those same teachers aren’t allowed to participate in governing the state.

Missouri is one of four states where active public school teachers cannot also serve in their state legislature, according to a review of National Conference of State Legislatures data by Education Week.

Tenele Griffon waits Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2018, to have fingerprints taken for a background check in order to start a new job driving school buses in Hazelwood. Griffon and other educators waited more than six hours to have the mandatory checks completed.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

Tenele Griffon rested his head on an umbrella as he sat on a wooden bench at the end of a line of people in DuBourg Hall at Saint Louis University. He was supposed to start his new job as a bus driver in Hazelwood Monday. Instead, he spent the first half of the week trying to complete his mandatory background check.

Last week Griffon went to the places that used to record fingerprints, only to learn they no longer had a state contract. He arrived at the only location in St. Louis fingerprinting people for background checks shortly after 10 a.m., only to find dozens of people ahead of him in line.

Several Missouri school districts arm their employees to prevent mass shootings. More schools in the state are considering it following a school shooting last month.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

A Missouri law adopted four years ago to arm school staff was used for the first time this summer. It’s a step one school district took to increase security after a debate on protecting students flared this year.

The school massacre in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 people dead in February kicked off a nationwide debate over arming teachers to protect against future attacks. This summer one Missouri school sent two employees through a certified police academy training program to become authorized School Protection Officers, allowing them to carry concealed firearms on school grounds, according to the Department of Public Safety.

Stephanie Regagnon, far right, poses for a photo in 2014 with some of the Ava's Grace scholarship recipients.
Stephanie Regagnon

When Stephanie Regagnon of Kirkwood was in her 20s, a jury found her mother guilty of a federal crime and sent her to prison for four years. The family maintains that she is innocent.

The first time Regagnon visited her mom, she noticed small children stocking up on vending-machine snacks for their parents to enjoy when they came out to see them.

“It seemed like they were trying so hard to create a nice environment,” Regagnon said. “It was pretty soul crushing.”

Regagnon imagined the children waiting to see their parents would likely have a hard time getting to college. In 2010, she started a scholarship fund called Ava’s Grace to help young people whose fate brushed so closely against her own.

Natalia Cantu stimulates the neurons in a cockroach leg at a lab session on July 25, 2018, while fellow program participant Ryan Evans observes.
Shahla Farzan | St. Louis Public Radio

Natalia Cantu attaches electrodes to a cockroach leg and taps its spiky hairs with a paintbrush.

The neurons in the leg fire rapidly in response, appearing as sharp peaks and valleys on her smartphone.

Cantu, who teaches ninth-grade biology in Edinburg, Texas, is in her second year of Washington University’s Master of Science in Biology for Science Teachers program. As part of the program, high school teachers from across the country do hands-on lab work to improve their own knowledge of science, in the hopes that they can help spark an interest in their students.

Geoffrey Soyiantet, Sally Gacheru and Gracemary Nganga compare their Kenyan beed bracelets. Gacheru and Nganga, both 17 year olds from Florissant, will return to Kenya on a service trip through Soyiantet's Vitendo4Africa organization.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

Sally Gacheru is wearing a black t-shirt with the Kenyan flag embroidered on it: red, black and green, with a shield in the middle.

“My pride being a Kenyan is so high,” she said, "so I try to wear a lot of clothes and represent myself.”

Jack Krewson hugs Gavin Schiffres after the two won sponsorship to open a charter school in St. Louis' Dutchtown neighborhood Wednesday, July 11, 2018.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

Two former Teach For America corps members will have a chance to bring a different model of public education to a part of south St. Louis they say is underserved.

The Missouri Charter Public School Commission agreed Wednesday evening to sponsor Kairos Academies’ application for a five-year charter to run a school in the Dutchtown neighborhood. It still needs the state school board to sign off, but earning a sponsor is a major piece in opening a charter school.

City Garden Montessori teacher Anne Lacey works with student Imani Palada, 8, on math problems in April 2017..
File photo | Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri charter schools will now be able to give preference to poor or struggling students in its lottery admissions system.

That change was part of an omnibus education bill signed into law last week by Gov. Mike Parson. Some charter schools in St. Louis have struggled to maintain their mission as they increased in popularity and surrounding neighborhoods gentrified.

The Bunker School District has cut its budget to educate about 240 kids in Reynolds County to $2.6 million from $3.6 million because of a lengthy property tax dispute between the Doe Run mining company and county assessor.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

A school district in the northeastern Missouri Ozarks that’s relied on property taxes from nearby lead mining for years is struggling to make do with significantly less funding. And it’s starting to show.

The classroom walls and hallways of the Bunker School District could all use a new coat of paint, yet Bunker only has enough money to paint five rooms over the summer break.

Piles of concrete and brick line a fence separating the former Pruitt-Igoe housing development from the Gateway school complex. Parents and staff at the school say placing the rubble there stirred levels of dust high enough to sicken students and teachers
File Photo | Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

Health problems at a north St. Louis school have gotten the attention of federal officials.

That’s after many parents and teachers blamed respiratory problems on dust from debris brought near their school from the site of the new headquarters of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.

NGA Director Robert Cardillo and Mayor Lyda Krewson spoke Thursday and discussed the handling of the debris.

Tricia Frank lays out books in community room of Woodhollow Apartments in Maryland Heights Friday, June 22, 2018. The Parkway North High School teacher delivers books because the nearby St. Louis County Library branch is closed for renovation. 6/22/18
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

Tricia Frank’s car breaking down this spring was a good thing: Now she has more storage space in her new, larger vehicle.

Frank is using that new car to deliver books to four apartment complexes in the northern part of the Parkway School District in lieu of the St. Louis County Library branch, which is closed this summer for renovation.

In shirts and ties, boys go over the books of the hospital in the fictional JA BizTown. Running the city is part of a weeklong summer camp on business and entrepreneurship.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

The mayor wears a plastic top hat; the doctor is years away from being able to drive; the utility worker is wearing a uniform six sizes too big.

Welcome to JA BizTown, a fictional city populated entirely by 8- and 9-year-olds. It’s part of a summer camp teaching financial and business skills to children and adolescents. Over a week they learn about the responsibilities of going to work, filling out paperwork and paying off bills, all within their very own make-believe town.

Cenya Davis puffs on her inhaler earlier this month. The 8-year-old student at Gateway Elementary School in St. Louis has been to the hospital three times for breathing trouble starting in December. She now regularly uses the inhaler.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

Original story from 06/14/18; updated with audio from St. Louis on the Air segment on 06/15/18.

A school nurse told St. Louis health officials in February about students under the nurse’s care hospitalized by asthma attacks and teachers forced to stay home with respiratory illnesses, but neither the school district nor the health department warned those afflicted about a possible connection in their ailments.

It was not until a St. Louis Public Radio investigation published last month that some parents and staff of the Gateway school complex said they first learned the respiratory illnesses may have been caused by dirt and dust kicked up by nearby demolition work funded and overseen by the city.

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