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Adams unveils budget for St. Louis Public Schools

(Rachel Lippmann/St. Louis Public Radio)
Under a budget plan unveiled last night by St. Louis Public Schools superintendent Kelvin Adams, historic Sumner High School may become a charter in the 2012 school year.

Three schools would be closed, and several others would undergo vast transformations, under a $273 million dollar budget proposal  unveiled last night by St. Louis Public Schools superintendent Kelvin Adams.

The proposed spending plan also marks a shift in budgeting philosophy for the district. Money in the past has been distributed to schools based on the number of people that work in the building.

Starting next year, the money would be allocated as a grant to schools based on several factors, including the percentage of special education and low-income students, average daily attendance, and whether the school is a magnet/choice school. Within reason - for example, they'll still have to meet state class size limits - principals will be able to set their own staffing plan.

"The whole challenge for a principal is to have ownership, and have control of the resources," said Adams, a former principal. "If I decide I want to have a larger third grade class - I have a great, dynamic third grade teacher, I'll put that teacher in that classroom," Adams said.  "But I may have a smaller fourth grade class because maybe things aren't working as well in my fourth grade group."

More details are after the break.

The budget does not lay off any teachers, though some safety officers and other non-certified personnel will lose their jobs. The district is also shifting some nurses and social workers that were hired using federal stimulus dollars to its general operating budget, at a cost of several million dollars.

Transportation will take a sharp hit. More schools will share buses, and transportation for field trips and after-school activities will be curtailed. Adams says restoring the $3.4 million cut will be a priority as the district receives additional dollars.

Here are the various changes proposed to the district's schools:

  • Bunche and Stevens middle schools, and Big Picture Academy at Kottmeyer, will close. Bunche students will go to Compton-Drew Investigate Learning Center, though Adams says he will work to keep the language immersion education in place. Stevens students will go to Cole, L'Overture or Yeatman schools, and Big Picture students will go to schools throughout the city.
  • Stevens was closed partially for academic reasons.  The Special Administrative Board adopted that policy at its last meeting.
  • Beaumont High School will become a technical school serving grades 11-12. Students would attend a comprehensive high school for a half-day and Beaumont for a half-day. The school will not take ninth graders this year. The necessary capital improvements will cost about $500,000
  • Dr. Adams is exploring ways to turn Sumner High School - which he threatened to close last year - into a district-sponsored charter school in the 2012-2013 school year.
  • Cole School will get an Afro-centric curriculum. Woerner Elementary and Yeatman Middle will become gender-specific schools. Adams says parent organizations at those schools expressed an interest in having those programs in place. Students and staff would be able to transfer out of those three schools, but not transfer in. Adams says the district cannot afford to transport students from across the city.
  • The district will open 27 additional early childhood classrooms and expand a teen mother support program to all four high schools. Adams says funding for those programs will come from outside sources, not general revenue.

The district will do everything in its power to hang onto students who might not be happy with proposed changes at their school, Adams said.
"But parents have choices, and they have to make those choices," he said. "This whole piece is about choices. We want to try and create the best choice for them. But the parent may not feel that it is the best choice and so they'll obviously vote with their feet."

The district is projecting a K-12 enrollment of 23,072 next year. The K-12 enrollment in the 2006-2007 school year was 32,135. Enrollment in charter schools has more than doubled in that time frame.

The district will take public comment online from April 28 to May 16. On Monday, May 9 there will be a public forum at 6:30 p.m. at Vashon High School. Dr. Adams is hoping to take a final vote at the May 26 board meeting, which will start at 6 p.m.

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