End of the line for 2 more St. Louis public schools?
The superintendent of St. Louis Public Schools is recommending that at least two schools in north St. Louis close at the end of the 2016-2017 school year.
After having meetings at 10 schools that have low enrollment and shaky academic performance, Kelvin Adams told the district’s appointed board Monday night that Cote Brilliante Elementary, 2616 Cora Ave., in the Ville neighborhood, and Langston Middle School, 5511 Wabada Ave., in the Wells Goodfellow neighborhood don’t have the area population and development they need to stay open.
“We said we would examine 10 schools. We did. We looked at the schools and talked to the communities and looked at the enrollment, looked at the development around the school. It made sense to keep the schools open. In two it did not make any sense,” Adams said.
Seven schools have until March to come up with a plan to recruit more students and improve academics, similar to what Sumner and Vashon high schools did last year.
“You won’t see something happen overnight. It’s a three- or four-year process,” Adams said. “We are looking at the numbers, we are looking at the programs; and if it doesn’t work in three or four years these schools know that they are likely to close and I won’t be coming back and having these kind of conversations again.”
In addition to Cote Brilliante and Langston Middle, Adams may recommend the closure of Northwest Academy of Law, 5140 Riverview Blvd., later this school year, but first he wants to talk to alumni.
“Northwest is the magnet that has struggled academically,” Adams said, adding that one idea would be to switch half of the school’s enrollment to the neighborhood.
Cote Brilliante has 170 students this year, less than half of the building’s capacity. Clay Elementary and Farragut Elementary have similar enrollment numbers, but Adams said Farragut will soon be taking students from Columbia as it becomes a gifted school, and the National Geospatial Agency recommended that the district keep Clay open.
“For Clay they said, 'Hey, in three or four years this neighborhood may take off so it wouldn’t make sense to close right now,'” Adams said.
Long Middle School, 5028 Morganford Road, in the Bevo neighborhood was also considered for closure, but Adams said the strength of the neighborhood population gave it potential.
“There are a lot of kids who live in the Long neighborhood, and it’s a great neighborhood,” Adams said. “We have to do a better job of selling the school and looking at redeeming it to get those families to come.”
Five people, including two aldermen and an incoming state representative, spoke in favor of keeping Long open during the meeting’s public comment period. They want to turn Long into an international school similar to Soldan high school.
Many of the initial community recommendations for schools with low enrollment focused on coming up with a theme for the school, something the district has done a lot in recent years.
Adams acknowledged that some themes have been more successful than others.
“Some have worked well. Some have not worked well,” Adams said. “I think what’s also important is that we’ve done a better job of supporting themes. When we first started doing it we just said, 'OK, principal you run with it.' Now we’re doing a better job of giving them infrastructure and support to really carry it out and make it work.”
The Special Appointed Board is expected to vote on Adams’ closure recommendations at its December meeting.
Meanwhile, the appointed board has asked Adams to formally request full accreditation from the Missouri board of education.
The provisionally accredited district scored within the fully accredited range on its state report card this year, for the second year in a row.
“We certainly believe we have met every qualification, followed the criteria put in front of us. We know that the students, teachers, parents, staff, everybody involved in this has worked very hard and we think earned the status, or the classification, as fully accredited,” said Rick Sullivan, who has been at the helm of the appointed board since the state put it in charge of the district in 2007.
St. Louis Public Schools has been either unaccredited or provisionally accredited since 2001.
The state board of education is expected to vote on classification upgrades Dec. 2.
Follow Camille on Twitter: @cmpcamille.