James Gibbs remembers when the 522-student-capacity Dunbar Elementary School in St. Louis’ JeffVanderLou neighborhood could barely contain all his classmates.
“It was maxed; it was capacity,” said Gibbs, who’s now 62 years old. “If it didn’t overflow, it was 500.”
That was in the early 1970s when St. Louis Public Schools educated 111,000 students. Last fall, 155 registered at Dunbar, filling just 30% of the available classroom space. The district’s entire enrollment has fallen to 21,500, including 2,000 pre-schoolers.