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Education

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.

Missouri State Board of Education member Vic Lenz, board President Charlie Shields, and interim Education Commissioner Roger Dorson during the state school board's first meeting Thursday in six months.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

The Missouri State Board of Education started advancing education policy in the state for the first time in six months with just enough members to do so.

Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

The roster on the Missouri State Board of Education is deep enough to hold a meeting for the first time since December.

Gov. Mike Parson appointed two people to the board Tuesday morning, ending six months of paralysis in which the school board — short of a quorum — was unable to vote or advance education policy in the state.

Jennings school kids pick up lunches delivered June 4, 2018 by Operation Food Search at Hanrahan Elementary School. The north St. Louis County district serves meals as part of its summer school program.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

During the school year, Stacey Vehlewald’s kids are able to grab bagels in the cafeteria before class, and chow down on chicken nuggets at lunchtime. When summer break arrives, those free meals from the school cafeteria aren’t available.

Even with trips to the food pantry and shopping discounts, last summer Vehlewald's grocery bill went up at least $300 per month.

Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

The Hazelwood School District, one of St. Louis County’s largest school systems, will have a balanced budget for the second straight school year, but at the cost of further reducing its teaching staff.

The district held a public hearing Monday on its first budget since a state audit found some poor bookkeeping and potential overspending by district administrators.

Ngone Seck hugs a friend after receiving her diploma at Riverview Gardens High School's graduation ceremony. May 2018
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Just a few years ago, Ngone Seck arrived in Florissant from Italy and began the seventh grade.

From the start, she was behind her peers. She struggled to adapt to her new country, had trouble learning English, and, at first, did poorly in school.

Today, the Italian immigrant of West African heritage began her first day of college, on a full scholarship. Her journey is paved with the sacrifices of her working-class family, the comfort of her music and the support of good teachers.

Shannan Muskopf | flickr

States are raising the bar of academic standards for measuring students’ learning, according to a report from federal education researchers — but that bar often varies from state to state.

To complicate things more, states, including Missouri, have changed which tests they use several times in recent years.

The National Center for Education Statistics — the research arm of the U.S. Department of Education — released a report Thursday that compares each state’s academic proficiency. The level at which states are considered proficient has gone up, and the gap between high and low bars is narrowing, researchers said.

Republican Lt. Gov. Mike Parson would become governor if Eric Greitens left office.
File photo I Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

When Lt. Gov. Mike Parson becomes governor on Friday, the clock will be ticking to fill several seats on the board that oversees Missouri’s K-12 schools. Yet the soon-to-be governor’s platform on education is thin.

Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

As the Missouri Senate extends its session to investigate possible wrongdoing by the governor, it’s also prolonging the state school board’s inability to function normally.

The State Board of Education has three members currently, not enough for the board to have a five-member quorum and hold meetings. Yet under state law, the board must meet in June. If and when that meeting will take place is not certain, and what happens if it doesn’t is also a question.

Belleville West High School is about 10 miles west of East St. Louis Senior High.
File | Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

Belleville police arrested a male student Wednesday morning they considered a threat to other Belleville East High School students.

Belleville Township High School Superintendent Jeff Dosier canceled what was supposed to be the last day of school at both East and West campuses around 6:30 a.m. Police notified the district of the threat, which Dosier said police considered to be “credible.”

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

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Demolition and excavation work for a new federal intelligence agency headquarters in north St. Louis received environmental scrutiny and regulation that officials said is “above and beyond” what’s required.

When some of that demolition material from the site of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s West headquarters was moved across the street, and next to a public school, little if any monitoring occurred. Parents and staff at the Gateway school complex on North Jefferson Avenue, point to the 30-foot piles of rubble they say brought high levels of dust and caused breathing problems and other ailments at the school over several months.

Parents and staff blame illnesses inside the Gateway school complex on debris brought over from the site of the planned National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency headquarters. The piles tower over a fence next to the school. May 6, 2018.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

Isaiah Carson was happy and healthy on an early April afternoon as he worked on spelling with his dad at the family’s kitchen table.

That wasn’t the case a few months earlier when he started having trouble breathing. He was wheezing and had a shallow cough.

Isaiah, who’s 5, would lie in bed with his parents at night, unable to sleep. His father, Michael Carson, felt helpless. “He scared me to death,” Carson said.

A student walks through the University of Missouri-St. Louis' campus Friday afternoon, May 19, 2017.
File photo| Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated May 8 at 8:30 a.m. with new recommendations —

Some degrees slated to be dropped at the University of Missouri-St. Louis appear to have been saved.

UMSL administrators released final recommendations Monday on a restructuring effort designed to save the public institution money. The entire University of Missouri System is going through a similar process at the direction of President Mun Choi.

Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

As the clock winds down on the Missouri General Assembly’s regular session, legislators distracted by the Greitens scandal have done little to change the public school landscape. But that could change in coming weeks as a massive policy bill nears passage and the two chambers negotiate differences in the education budget.

Hazelwood parents read through an audit of the school district's finances done by Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway during a community meeting to release the results of the report Wednesday, May 2, 2018.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

Lax handling of cash created an environment that allowed a former Hazelwood high school principal to embezzle thousands of dollars, according to a state audit of the school district. It also found the district took in $95,000 more in state funding than it should have.

Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway released the results of a year-long review of the north St. Louis County school district’s finances Wednesday evening. A few dozen parents attended a presentation by Galloway in the gymnasium of Central High School.

University City seniors Alex Cunningham, sitting, and Kyhler Cross work out a new beat as part of the audio production course Cunningham started last year. April 23, 2018.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

Alex Cunningham is sprawled across the hallway in a corner of the University City High School music department. His laptop rests on his chest. Headphones cover his ears.

“I was trying to get to the studio but the door was locked,” he explained.

Cunningham, an 18-year-old senior, didn’t feel like doing the four flights of stairs down and up again to find a staff member to let him in. So he plopped down in the hall, outside of what could be considered his classroom.

Hawthorn students Lanet Williams, at left, and Lauryn Holmes, center, practice taking each other's blood pressure with Washington University medical student Helen Liljenwall on April 13, 2018.
Shahla Farzan | St. Louis Public Radio

Washington University students are working closely with staff at Hawthorn Leadership School for Girls in north St. Louis to help students succeed academically and introduce them to new experiences.

As part of the InvestiGirls program, Wash U undergraduates provide after-school tutoring and enrichment workshops for Hawthorn students in sixth through ninth grade. The initiative, which is spearheaded by the university’s Gephardt Institute for Civic and Community Engagement, recently completed its third year.

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