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SLPS looks to sponsor two new charters

(screenshot via Google Maps)
The St. Louis Public Schools will ask the Mo. State Board of Education for permission to sponsor a charter school that will locate in the vacant Mitchell Elementary, shown here in a Google Maps screenshot.

The St. Louis Public Schools will ask the Missouri State Board of Education for permission to sponsor a new charter school that will lease space in a vacant district property on the city's north side.

The state board that oversees the district approved the request last night.

As recently as 2009, the district would not even consider selling its shuttered buildings to charter schools. And the two new schools would compete with district buildings for students. But superintendent Kelvin Adams says said it was a matter of the district deciding how to relate to possible competitors.

"We're kind of defining the relationship a little bit differently than it has been in the past, as opposed to just selling a building, or leasing a building, and walking away and saying 'that's it,'" Adams said. "Accountability has always been the issue for us, and we just wanted to make sure that was part of our structure."

Adams says the lease of the old Mitchell Elementary School on Arcade Ave., as well as the district's sponsorship beyond the initial contract, will depend on academic performance. And unlike other charter schools operating in the district, scores at this new one - which is set to be run by Massachusetts-based Lighthouse Academies - will count toward the district's annual year progress numbers.

That focus on academic achievement is what excites Vincent Flewellen, the chairman of the St. Louis Lighthouse Academy board.

"I'm an educator, I'm teacher, and a lifelong resident of St. Louis, and so I firmly believe in quality public education, and this is an opportunity for us to continue to support that," Flewellen said.

The executive director of the Missouri Charter Public Schools Association, Doug Thaman, says he's pleased the SLPS has loosened its stance toward charters.

"It's an opportunity for them to expand their portfolio of educational offerings and provide a couple of new quality options for families in St. Louis," Thaman said. He says school districts often make the best sponsors because of their experience and resources.

The board will consider a second sponsorship application at its next meeting.

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.

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