Education | St. Louis Public Radio


Children play in the dirt before summer camp at the Carondelet YMCA gets underway on Thursday, Aug. 1, 2019.
File Photo | Ryan Delaney |St. Louis Public Radio

This summer, there will be just as many kids at Camp Home as Camp Anawanna. 

While summer camps are allowed to resume Monday in St. Louis and St. Louis County under a list of public health restrictions, parents find they have fewer camp options and lingering safety concerns during the pandemic.

Jonathan Ahl | St. Louis Public Radio

ROLLA — Missouri University of Science and Technology is expected to announce furloughs and layoffs this week, similar to those at most colleges and universities, but the cuts could include degree programs.

S&T Chancellor Mo Dehghani said financial challenges caused by the pandemic provide a chance for the university to improve the focus on its core, and that could include eliminating majors.

“This is the opportunity for us to see what programs we can integrate. What programs that have been, frankly, lingering for the last several years [that] we can potentially sunset,” Dehghani said during a recent virtual town hall meeting.

May 28, 2020 Corey Bradford
Provided by Harris-Stowe State University

This interview will be on “St. Louis on the Air” over the noon hour Monday. This story will be updated after the show. You can listen live.

Corey S. Bradford Sr. chose a tough time to come home to the St. Louis metro. The native St. Louisan took office as president of Harris-Stowe State University on May 4 — an unprecedented time for higher education, which is grappling with both funding shortages due to the economic downturn and complications from the coronavirus.

But Bradford comes to the historically black public university with decades of experience in university administration. He spent the past nine years at Prairie View A&M University in Texas, most recently serving as senior vice president for business affairs. He previously worked for the Southern Illinois University System, including as assistant vice president for financial and administrative affairs. He is also a graduate of that system, earning a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and a master’s in applied math and statistics from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.  

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. 

File Photo | Danny Hommes

In the coming weeks, some day care facilities are set to reopen their doors after a hiatus. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children are not at higher risk for COVID-19, but they can still pass the virus on to others who are high risk. Child care providers are setting reentry guidelines to limit exposure and transmission from parents and teachers.

While playtime might not be affected, day care centers will operate a bit differently: Parents will sign in virtually when dropping off their child outside the building, some kids will have to bring in an extra pair of shoes to switch when entering the building, and fewer kids will be admitted to programs. 

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.”

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. 

Missouri school districts trying to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 closures will be able to start sooner than they were supposed to next year.

School was supposed to start no earlier than Aug. 24, two weeks before Labor Day, according to a new state law championed by the tourism industry. They want kids vacationing with their families into August, not heading back to class so soon.

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.

For science educators, the COVID-19 pandemic is the ultimate teachable moment.

That’s why a small team of teachers working with the University of Missouri is already developing a coronavirus curriculum and teaching it to high schoolers around the state. And there are plans to get these lessons into even more classrooms this fall, when kids will hopefully be back in actual classrooms.

Lisa Marlow is worried about her students. Marlow is a school nurse and educator with the Murphysboro Community Unit School District 186. 

The district serves primarily low-income students in a rural part of southern Illinois. 

When school is in session, Marlow says having eyes on students, especially those with chronic conditions like Type 1 diabetes or asthma, is crucial.

Statue of St. Patrick looking over the Missouri S&T quad, 4-24-20
Jonathan Ahl | St. Louis Public Radio

ROLLA — With some data suggesting the region and state hit its peak in coronavirus spread more than a week ago, Missouri University of Science and Technology is planning to start a slow process of bringing people back to campus.

School officials announced the plan during a recent virtual town hall meeting, the latest in a series held every week since the coronavirus pandemic reached the area.

“The optimism [about the data] points us in a direction of looking at repopulation of campus in a well-thought-out, phased approach,” said Dr. Dennis Goodman, the university's medical director. “Getting ready for that phase that is going to occur in August which will be a large population surge.”

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.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced that Illinois schools will not hold any in-person classes for the rest of the academic year.

The governor said the decision reached by his administration and the state school board was a hard one. But, he told reporters during a daily press briefing he is confident that schools will expand remote learning opportunities for students. 

Kristin Sobolik was appointed chancellor April 9.
University of Missouri-St. Louis

About a week ago, the University of Missouri-St. Louis announced it had a new chancellor: Kristin Sobolik. Her selection followed a national search that ultimately led right back to campus. Sobolik has been part of the UMSL leadership team since 2017 — first as provost and most recently as interim chancellor.

On Friday’s St. Louis on the Air, Sobolik joined host Sarah Fenske to share how she plans to lead the university in the uniquely challenging months ahead.

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.

Updated, 4:40 p.m. Tuesday – The economic fallout from COVID-19 could cost the University of Missouri System $180 million, triggering layoffs, furloughs and other cost-cutting measures.

“The problems that we see based on the reductions in state support, also the softness in enrollment in the fall, and how the market is doing in terms of our investment outcomes, we expect a significant downtown for the university,” President Mun Choi said Tuesday during a virtual town hall for University of Missouri faculty and staff, “and that does require structural changes.”

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.

Sandy Kearney shares a message for the Eureka High School community, where she began working as a guidance counselor in 1993. Kearney died from COVID-19 this week. She was 70 years old.
Rockwood School District

Sandy Kearney’s health was improving, she assured her friends and family. She even talked with her grandsons in a video chat from the hospital bed.

Co-workers, friends and family were all concerned when they learned Kearney had been diagnosed with COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus sweeping through the world. But Sandy, they prayed, they predicted, would be fine.

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.