Education | St. Louis Public Radio


Here Are The Guidelines St. Louis County Schools Should Follow This Fall

Jul 7, 2020
Josiah Gooden, a graduating senior from McCluer North High School, attends a drive-in commencement Sunday, May 31, 2020.
File photo | Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

Schools in St. Louis County now have guidelines they can use as they make plans to return to in-person learning this fall.

Health and education leaders in St. Louis County worked together to develop guidance for districts building a framework for how classrooms and schools will look while the COVID-19 pandemic remains a concern.

A new report says more than 35% of Missouri students don't have adequate internet connectivity for virtual learning. 070420
Sylvia Maria Gross | KCUR

Even fewer Missouri students have reliable internet connectivity than previously thought, according to a new report from the nonprofit Common Sense Media.

The group, which makes entertainment and technology recommendations for families, estimates that 36% of Missouri students don’t have adequate internet access for virtual learning.

An earlier Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education survey put that figure at 23%. Both studies found that cost was the biggest barrier to access.

A Jennings child expresses disappointment about the lack of chocolate milk options on the first day of summer school. Operation Food Search, a regional food bank, will supply meals to a thousand students at the north St. Louis County school district this
File Photo | Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

Federal money meant to help low-income families with food costs while kids were home from school this spring is reaching just 60% of Missouri’s eligible families.

The Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer is a $5.40 a day allocation from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that usually goes to high-poverty schools to feed their students. Instead this spring the P-EBT money was sent directly to families across the country as a one-time check of up to $302.

Susanna Lohr | St. Louis Public Radio

The American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri is calling on the state’s school districts to follow a national example and remove police officers from schools.

The ACLU has circulated a letter to nine school administrators so far, mostly in the St. Louis and Kansas City areas, arguing the money spent on school resource officers, often referred to as SROs, should instead go to the social-emotional needs of children, such as by hiring more social workers and counselors.

Josiah Gooden, a graduating senior from McCluer North High School, attends a drive-in commencement Sunday, May 31, 2020.
File photo | Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

There was a visible addition to the commencement regalia and pomp for McCluer North High School class of 2020: face masks.

When the seniors paraded into a parking lot at the former St. Louis Mills Mall Sunday, they had face masks with their school’s logo and graduation year to match their caps and gowns. It was all part of an attempt to orchestrate a socially distanced graduation ceremony and give these teens a proper send-off after so much else in their senior year was missed.

Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

Magnet, charter, neighborhood, choice: The different types of schools in urban public education can be a lot to decipher, even a few decades into the so-called “school choice” era.

A website that helps St. Louis parents pilot it all has relaunched with updated data and a new name. 

William Thomas, 18, of Chicago Heights, Illinois, fills out residential housing paperwork at a Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville freshman orientation on Friday, July 28, 2017.
File photo | Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

Colleges and universities in the St. Louis region are starting to piece together plans for how students can return to their campuses for the fall semester, with plenty of emergency escape hatches built into those blueprints.

“We will definitely have a fall semester,” Rob Wild, Washington University’s interim vice chancellor for student affairs, said in a letter to students late last month, adding, “our strong preference is to have an ‘in-person’ experience, where students, faculty, and staff can be together on campus as a full community. However, we may need to make some changes.”

St. Louis-native Dajae Williams is a quality engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab in Los Angeles, California.
Dajae Williams

Dajae Williams boasts that she’s “the dopest person to ever work at NASA.” 

A quality engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab in Los Angeles, Williams is also one of the youngest people to work at the research facility. The St. Louis native started her career at NASA at such a young age through the company’s Early Career Initiative

She said the program allows engineers to kick off their profession without the pressure of being “geniuses” already. Not only is she one of the youngest people there, but she’s one of the few women of color. That sets her apart in some big ways. 

Danielle Harper, the social worker at Mann Elementary School in St. Louis, hands a tablet computer to a parent on April 14, 2020. School districts that serve low-income populations faced a steeper obstacle getting their kids fully online quickly.
File photo | Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

Lynn Weaks doesn’t have internet access at home. A smartphone, she said, “was basically all I had.”

Her four children often stayed after school at Ashland Elementary School in St. Louis, which gave them access to tablets to do homework. On the weekends, if they needed to log online to do schoolwork, they’d head to the public library. 

That all changed in March when the pandemic forced schools — and libraries — to close. 

A teacher tutors a student at the Nahed Chapman New American Academy.
Day One

The documentary “Day One” follows a group of teenage refugees enrolled at a unique public school in St. Louis: the Nahed Chapman New American Academy. The school only enrolls refugees and immigrants, some of whom come from war-torn countries.

“With a lot of refugees, they’re really just surviving — in the beginning especially — on a day-to-day basis,” said the documentary’s producer and director, Lori Miller, on Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air. “They’re learning a new language; they’re trying to survive economically.”

“I think this ‘soft place to land’ does make a difference for the kids,” she said.

Students, such as these at Ashland Elementary School in St. Louis, will need to maintain a lot more personal space than they did back on Jan. 7, 2020, if schools reopen in August.
File photo | Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

There’s now a template for how in-class learning will look once schools reopen in Missouri. Complying with it all will require some complicated geometry.

The Missouri School Boards’ Association’s Center for Education published a nearly 100-page guidebook for schools on how to operate while navigating a pandemic. It calls for more cleaning and hygiene while eliminating or curtailing in-school activities like choir, recess and gym class, as well as many after-school ones.

Two students walk down the long stairwell in front of Brookings Administration Building at Washington University in St. Louis in March. The university plans to furlough up to 1,300 employees by next week. (photo taken March 19, 2020)
File photo | Bill Greenblatt | UPI

Washington University’s residential advisors want financial compensation after being “randomly evicted” over email while scattered across the country for spring break.

With college campuses closed around the nation and students finishing up the semester from childhood bedrooms, older students enlisted as resident advisors are no longer needed to chaperone freshman dormitories.

Carondelet Leadership Academy middle schoolers rehearse for their upcoming performance of "Still Rascals" at the Ivory Theatre on Oct. 25, 2018..
File Photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Carondelet Leadership Academy, a decade-old charter school in south St. Louis, will close permanently after this current academic year.

The school’s administration and its sponsor tried to implement turnaround strategies without success, and so the Missouri Charter Public School Commission said last month it will not renew the school’s charter for another five years.

Linda Williams made commencement caps and gowns for the robots of her virtual events planning business to wear during graduation ceremonies not help in person.
Linda Williams

As the coronavirus pandemic shutdown drags on, some schools are considering holding graduation in July or even August.

But two St. Louis entrepreneurs are offering another option: robots.

With schools closed because of the coronavirus pandemic, students have had to adapt to trying to keep up with lessons remotely, from living rooms, kitchen tables and bedrooms.
Nat Thomas | St. Louis Public Radio

EDWARDSVILLE — The coronavirus outbreak has forced classes at nearly every university and college in the St. Louis region online, and students and faculty face the challenges of learning or teaching through a screen.

Some courses, like larger lectures, can transfer online with relatively few hiccups. But others don’t translate so well, because they’re designed to be hands on or geared toward experiential learning.

Mia Mims, 4, poses for a photo as her mother drops her off for preschool Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2019 in Affton.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

The economic downturn caused by the coronavirus could roll back state investments in pre-K made since the last recession.

That’s the dire warning in the latest preschool yearbook from the National Institute for Early Education Research, which looks at states’ spending on pre-K during the 2018-19 school year.

A counselor guides a camper toward the playground during a summer camp Aug. 1, 2019, at the Carondelet YMCA. Summer camps and school programs are up in the air because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
File photo | Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

Parents are anxiously looking at the summer calendar for when they can get kids out of the house and into the responsible watch of teachers and summer camp counselors. 

Educators and camp leaders, however, say that for the most part, it’s still too early to say for sure.

With schools closed because of the coronavirus pandemic, students have had to adapt to trying to keep up with lessons remotely, from living rooms, kitchen tables and bedrooms.
Nat Thomas | St. Louis Public Radio

It’s not news that parents are struggling with suddenly being cast into the role of virtual teacher. They didn’t sign up for two jobs, and most of them didn’t train to be educators. So how can parents do the best they can for their children, while staying sane, in the weeks ahead? 

“Structure up,” said Gina Jeffries, director of SIUE East St. Louis Charter High School. “Make sure that everybody knows what their role is. The roles have changed.”

Brian Reed, Rockwood School District's digital learning director, gives out computers on March 22 in preparation of distance learning. All school buildings in the state will remain closed for the rest of the academic year.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri schools will not reopen for the remainder of the academic year, Gov. Mike Parson announced Thursday afternoon.

"I am ordering all Missouri public and charter schools to remain closed through the remainder of this academic year with the exceptions of nutrition services and child care that are outlined in our recent health order," Parson said.

Children leave Pershing Elementary School on March 26, 2020, after picking up lunch. Some districts in the state have cut back student meal services after employees got sick.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

Food service employees are among the few workers in school districts physically reporting for work every day during the pandemic lockdowns, joining front-line efforts to keep needy kids fed and safe.

“Our jobs are not necessarily monetarily driven, they’re more mission-driven,” said Irene Wan, director of Maplewood Richmond Heights School District’s food service division. “We’re here to serve people, we’re here to serve our families.”

With schools closed because of the coronavirus pandemic, students have had to adapt to trying to keep up with lessons remotely, from living rooms, kitchen tables and bedrooms.
Nat Thomas | St. Louis Public Radio

Schools in the St. Louis region and around the nation have been closed for nearly a month, as one of many social distancing measures aimed at stemming the spread of the coronavirus pandemic stretches on. In place of classroom learning, schools have implemented instruction delivered virtually. 

While students can now attend school in their pajamas, it’s not all fun. They’re missing their friends and teachers, and older students will likely lose milestone moments, such as graduation.

St. Louis Public Radio wanted to know how students are adjusting and adapting to their new reality, so we asked them to tell us. Take a listen.

The playground at Shaw VPA Elementary School sits empty on Thursday afternoon, March 19, 2020.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

When St. Louis Public Schools was unexpectedly forced last month to hit the pause button on the school year and close all its buildings, it also had to pause its efforts to decide which schools to close for good.

SLPS was about halfway through a multi-month process to reimagine its physical presence throughout the city. The original public forums were held, but Superintendent Kelvin Adams never had a chance to present a plan to the school board. Now, it seems like a low priority.

Brian Reed, an administrator with Rockwood School District, hands out laptops to students March 22, 2020, in preparation of remote learning.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

Like parents around the country, Michelle Haffer never imagined having to become her child’s full-time teacher. But Haffer’s daughter is out of school and mostly stuck in the house.

And her daughter, Maddy, isn’t loving it.

“Well, she’s been struggling. It’s mostly the social distancing, in that nothing is open,” Haffer said.

Missouri has postponed April municipal elections until June, a decision that could have a long-term impact on metro school districts asking voters to approve bonds for construction projects.

North Kansas City Schools, the state’s third largest school district, needs to replace two elementary schools, build an early childhood center and add on to Staley High School. There’s also a backlog of deferred maintenance at the district’s oldest school buildings. 

Benjamin Yates, right, works on a puzzle with his mother, Tracy, and brother, Nicholas, at their Webster Groves home.
Dale Singer | St. Louis Public Radio

The summer slide — the propensity for students to lose academic progress made during the school year — is something educators have expressed concern about for years. 

With the region’s schools being closed until at least early April due to the COVID-19 outbreak, teachers and administrators are working to make sure such a slide doesn’t happen this spring as well.

Teachers at Cross Keys Middle School in the Ferguson-Florissant School District try to navigate Google Classroom as schools across the region prepare to move online for several weeks. March 16, 2020.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

School administrators are scrambling to figure out how to move K-12 education fully online as schools throughout the region close their doors and tell students and staff to stay home to try to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

All public schools in St. Louis and St. Louis County along with Archdiocese schools announced Sunday evening they’ll close through April 3. Schools in Jefferson and St. Charles counties followed shortly after. Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker has ordered all schools in his state closed.

Students, staff and families of the Gateway school complex christen a walking path around the school grounds on Sept. 26, 2018. Gateway Michael Elementary School serves students in St. Louis Public Schools with disabilities.
Wiley Price | St. Louis American

Updated March 11 with additional budget info from SLPS

St. Louis residents could gain the ability to vote to join the Special School District of St. Louis County and significantly increase the level of resources for special education in the city’s public schools. 

The Missouri House of Representatives passed legislation last week that would allow one special school district to be annexed by another, essentially paving the way for a multistep process toward having a single, dedicated provider of special education for both the city and county.

Jessica Perkins, a facilitator with Emerging Wisdom consultants, runs a discussion during St. Louis Public Schools' first community visioning session at Clyde C. Miller Career Academy Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

The long and potentially painful process of restructuring St. Louis Public Schools’ physical presence throughout the city is underway.

The district held its first of six community visioning sessions Saturday morning. They’ll be followed by special school board meetings and more public forums in early spring.

A child grabs his backpack on his first day of preschool at the Affton Early Childhood Center on Aug. 13, 2019.
File Photo | Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

There’s a swelling momentum to increase the number of children under the age of 5 receiving free early childhood education in the St. Louis region.

State funding for preschool remains minimal, but dollars are slowly growing and institutions are getting creative in ways to soak up more of those limited funds.

Schools across the St. Louis region will close to prevent exposure and spread of coronavirus.
File Photo | Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

Webster Groves’ elementary schools would be less crowded and have unbroken attendance boundaries under a plan being considered by its school board.

But the changes that would take effect in 2021 have lukewarm approval from parents, with concerns over concentrating poverty in one school, walkability and home values.