When two public schools in northwest St. Louis release their students for summer break in June, they’ll be closing their doors for good.
St. Louis Public School’s Special Administrative Board unanimously voted Tuesday to close Cote Brilliante Elementary in the Ville neighborhood and Langston Middle School in the Wells Goodfellow neighborhood.
The closures are part of the district’s ongoing transformation plan, intended to improve performance and make better use of building space amid drops in enrollment.
“It’s never easy to close schools, and it’s an arduous process to do that, but when you have populations under 175 it makes it very, very difficult to continue to provide those resources," Superintendent Kelvin Adams said, after the state-appointed board approved the updated transformation plan.
“Not paying the dollars we pay for additional staff in a building that’s small, like the two we just mentioned, and also the electricity, gas and utilities, will free up additional dollars to support the other, in this case, 68 schools.”
Cote Brilliante and Langston Middle
Adams said school officials will begin contacting the parents of the 346 students enrolled in Cote Brilliante and Langston Middle on Wednesday, to help them sort through their options and suggest applying to the district’s many magnet schools.
“Traditionally our magnet schools do better academically, and have a little bit more resources,” Adams said, adding that the district will add applications for the students from the closing schools to the first magnet school lottery drawing.
“And quite frankly all of our [magnet] schools have room today. Every single one of our schools have room today, so they won’t be at a disadvantage,” Adams said. “Our Pool B ends on the 20th of January. By the 20th of January every family should know if they have selected a magnet school where they are going, or what the neighborhood school will be.”
For former Ville resident Napoleon Williams III, the closure of Cote Brilliante Elementary and Langston Middle is the end of an era. His children attended Cote Brilliante in the 1990s, following in both his and his mother’s footsteps.
“We actually stayed on Cora in the Ville, and we would actually walk to Cote Brilliante with a group of other kids and parents,” Williams said. “That was a great time because it was really communal.”
Williams said when he was a child the Ville was a strong neighborhood with a lot of homeowners, but by the time his children finished school some streets had become blighted.
“You could clearly observe the beginnings of the deterioration,” said Williams, who eventually moved away so his family could have more economic opportunity.
The director of the nonprofit Connections to Success, Williams believes neighborhoods like the Ville need more support so people don’t have to move away to find opportunity.
He also thinks Cote Brilliante should stay open, but he understands why the district would argue it needs to close.
“It’s a problem in the formula in how we fund education,” Williams said. “But in the current formula and the way we fund it, it’s something that’s pretty fiscally responsible and practical, but I just don’t think those rules should apply in an area as important and critical to the health and viability of our society as education is.”
“You understand that challenge, and you understand that there’s some difficult decisions that have to be made, and so my argument, my frustration would not be necessarily targeted towards a specific district,” the community advocate added.
“I think it’s a much broader issue that needs to be addressed, where we don’t find ourselves in these positions," he said. "And they adversely affect, for the most part, communities of color.”
Northwest Law Academy
In addition to closing Cote Brilliante and Langston, the newly approved transformation plan keeps Northwest Law Academy open, and consolidates the high school’s football team with Sumner High School's.
Adams said the magnet high school will try to boost enrollment by strengthening its theme so it has a greater focus on social justice and law enforcement.
Follow Camille on Twitter: @cmpcamille
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