Historic Preservation SLPS

Adams Warns of More School Closings Ahead

An article that appeared this week in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “St. Louis schools must cut $18 million more” (by David Hunn, October 9) quoted St. Louis Public Schools Superintendent predicting more school closings next year:

In addition, Adams said the district will almost certainly have to close more schools next summer. Some schools have feverishly hunted for students and are now enrolled over capacity. But 14 of the district’s 74 schools are below 50 percent full.

Historic Preservation Schools SLPS

St. Louis Public School Closings on NPR’s "All Things Considered"

KWMU reporter Adam Allington’s story on St. Louis Public Schools closings was carried today on NPR’s “All Things Considered.” NPR’s website features a gallery of photographs of schools closed in the current round. The story will air again tonight at 6:40 p.m. on 90.7 FM, and the audio file will be posted online after 7:00 p.m.

Schools SLPS

SLPS Deed Restrictions Out

by Michael R. Allen

From the St. Louis Public Schools:

ST. LOUIS, MO, April 17, 2009 – The Special Administrative Board of the St. Louis Public Schools voted unanimously (3-0) in closed session last evening to remove the deed restriction clause currently included in all property sales contracts. This policy goes into effect on June 30, 2009, to allow the district ample time to evaluate the facility needs for the upcoming school year in light of several new academic initiatives presented at the meeting by Superintendent Dr. Kelvin Adams.

Among those issues are:

· Assessing the required classrooms and schools needed for initiatives, such as pilot independent schools, before and after school programs, and alternative education programs which are included in Superintendent Dr. Kelvin Adams’ academic plan for the district.

· Providing alternate school sites for buildings undergoing lead paint abatement during the summer of 2009.

“We have worked with our elected leaders at the state capital in resolving this issue, and we appreciate their support in finding a resolution where we can enhance the education for all of our City students,” said Rick Sullivan, President & CEO of the Special Administrative Board.

The deed restriction has been a long standing issue from past school boards, and it was determined by the Special Administrative Board to be in the best interest of student education in St. Louis to revisit and revise the policy.

State Representative Tim Jones (R-89) said, “I appreciate the willingness of the St. Louis Public Schools to revisit this policy. I believe that by working together, we have reached a solution satisfactory to all parties for the betterment of education for the children in the City of St. Louis.”

State Representative Chris Carter (D-61) added, “I support the Special Administrative Board in this decision that will help make our neighborhoods stronger. This decision allows the St. Louis Public Schools to do what it believes is in the best interest of all the students in the City of St. Louis.”

Abandonment Academy Neighborhood North St. Louis Schools SLPS

A St. Louis Public School Not Designed by Ittner or Milligan

by Michael R. Allen

The large vacant brick building at 5234 Wells Avenue in the Academy Neighborhood bears a sign reading “St. Louis Public Schools / Area 1 Offices.” The imposing Jacobethan building has the symmetry, grace and quality of construction that is consistent with the stock of the St. Louis Public Schools, but it really does not resemble the buildings designed by William B. Ittner or Rockwell Milligan. Stylistically, there is some connection, but the plan, siting, lack of ornamentation on the side elevation and detailing is different. The massive terra cotta heraldic shield that caps the central entrance bay as well as the cartouches under the flanking window bays are clearly the work of another architect.

There’s a good reason for this: the building was not built for the St. Louis Public Schools. The Mt. Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church built this building in 1928 as a private religious school (cost was $40,000). Architect Albert Meyer designed the building, likely trying to match the renowned architecture of the public school district. Eventually, however, the congregation moved west and the closed school met the needs of an expanding St. Louis Public School district. Yes, the district expanded to the point of buying other school buildings within the lifetimes of many living city residents.

The Mt. Calvary school became Wells School and then Emerson Branch School. The last use was as the Area 1 Offices, housing regional administration for the Northwest, Soldan and Southwest high schools. The district closed the building in 1995 and sold it in 2006 to Grizzly LLC, a St. Charles-based firm. Today the building sits empty with no plans for reuse.

MGT of America recommended that the St. Louis Public Schools consider selling the downtown headquarters building and reusing existing schools for offices. This building, already converted, would have fit the bill. Its small size would also have made it a suitable alternative school. Too bad the district sold it.

Area 1 Offices building in September 2006.

Area 1 Offices building in May 1988 (photograph by Landmarks Association of St. Louis).

Historic Preservation Schools SLPS

SAB Approves Superintendent’s Recommended Facilities Plan

by Michael R. Allen

Last night, the Special Administrative Board unanimously approved the Facilities Management Plan recommended by St. Louis Public Schools Superintendent Kelvin Adams. The recommendations call for 17 school closures and the possible demolition of Mann School in Tower Grove South. (The summary and list are available here.) Adams first presented his recommendations to the SAB on February 26.

At last night’s meeting, three individuals spoke on behalf of Mann School during the public comment period, but the SAB ignored the pleas to keep the school open. However, the plan approved by the SAB would not close Mann until 2011 with a decision made next year, providing time for community input and reversal of the recommendations. Tower Grove South residents including the Block Captains association as well as Alderwoman Jennifer Florida (D-15th) oppose closing Mann and any plan that would call for its demolition.

Historic Preservation Schools SLPS South St. Louis Tower Grove South

The Fate of Mann School

by Michael R. Allen

Photograph of Mann School in 1989 from Landmarks Association of St. Louis‘ survey of St. Louis Public Schools buidlings.

St. Louis Public Schools Superintendent Kelvin Adams relieved many city residents with his closure recommendations, which number 17 as opposed to the 29 schools proposed by a team of consultants hired by the district in January. However, Adams raised the threat to Mann School at 4047 Juniata in Tower Grove South, which Admas is proposing not only for closure but also for possible demolition and replacement with a new building.

This recommendation is actually the one point where Adams is actually pushing a more severe threat to the district’s historic architecture than did the old-building-fearing consultants from MGT of America. MGT proposed closing Mann along with Shenandoah and Sherman schools, with all three south side elementaries combined at a new super-school in Tower Grove East. Adams wants Shenandoah to remain open, but is proposing a merger of Mann and Sherman in a new building he thinks could be built on the Mann site. A final decision would be made next year, but the crucial step is taken tonight when the facilities management plan is ratified.

The Mann site must be the most poorly-suited site in the district for construction of a new school building. When Mann was built in 1901 to designs by William Ittner, the ornate Jacobethen revival school was a compact two-story building on a compact site. Unlike those of other Ittner schools, the Mann site was not expansive and landscaped; it was small and paved, used for playground space. The school was in close proximity to buildings across the alley and across the street, in a siting beautifully urban. A 1916 addition that doubled Mann’s size maintained the relationship of the school to the neighborhood. (Paul Hohmann has great photographs in a recent blog post at Vanishing STL.)

Now, the school is landlocked in one of the city’s most stable and densely populated neighborhoods. Furthermore, the elementary school is doing well — enrollment is around 80%, the student base is 52% ESOL so south city’s immigrants are well-served, and 12 different organizations provide services at the school to students neighborhood children. This is a model neighborhood school. In fact, the state of Mann sounds a lot like the vision that members of the Special Administrative Board have for other elementary schools in the district.

Tonight (Thursday, March 12), the Special Administrative Board has a chance to save that model school. The Board will approve a facilities plan and closure list at its meeting, 6:00 p.m. at the Gateway Schools complex gymnasium, 1200 N. Jefferson. the public may address the Board at this meeting.

The largest step that the SAB could take would be removing Mann from the closure list altogether to safeguard its success and connection to the neighborhood. However, under any circumstances, demolition of Mann School should not be an option in the facilities plan. The SAB must amend Adams’ recommendations to prohibit demolition of Mann or any other historic school building — a condition now placed by the SAB in all sales contracts to private owners. Besides, rehabbing Mann or Sherman, or both, would be far more economical than building new.

This building, listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1992 for architectural significance, is a unique gem in a strong urban setting. The site is too small for a new school. The school is doing well. Why force an awkward fit, lose a great building and tamper with a stable neighborhood?

Schools SLPS South St. Louis

100 Supporters March and Rally to Save Public Schools

by Michael R. Allen

ST. LOUIS, Mo. – One hundred public school supporters held a Save Our Schools Rally at Shepard Elementary School at 3405 Wisconsin this morning to show support for keeping the school open. They then marched to Monroe Elementary, Carnahan High School, Meramec Elementary, three schools that have been recommended to stay open, with a concluding rally at Cleveland High School on S. Grand (which was closed three years ago).

At Shepard Alderman Craig Schmid urged participants to sign a petition opposing the closure of St. Louis Public Schools such as Shepard (e-MINTS) Elementary, Meramec Elementary, Cleveland High and Scruggs Elementary. “There are plenty of children in the area, but we have not seen sufficient efforts to market or recruit students to participate in quality St. Louis Public School programming,” Schmid said. Shepard pre-schoolers led those gathered in saying the pledge of allegiance to the flag and singing “The Star Spangled Banner” before reciting a portion of a speech by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

At Monroe Elementary, Schmid told the history of the school’s successful re-opening after almost 20 years of being closed. He questioned whether charter schools would be accountable to the community for quality education and noted that charter schools already operating in the area do not compare well with student achievement at Monroe.

At Carnahan High School and Meramec Elementary School, marchers stopped to celebrate successes, including recent awards given to Dr. Alice Roach, principal of Carnahan. Student ambassadors told about high tech classroom aids available at the school and announced that Carnahan had just received accreditation through the North Central Association.

John Chen of The Alliance to Save Cleveland High greeted marchers at the final stop of the Save Our Schools event and told them about work that citizens are doing to get the high school re-opened. Chen said they hope to see the building used as a much-needed community center and “as a collection of small learning communities in one large building.” Such a model has operated successfully, according to Cleveland supporters who have been researching “best practices” in other cities.

Alderwoman Dorothy Kirner (Ward 25) and State Representative Jeanette Mott Oxford (District 59) were also present to show support for keeping the schools open. Those interested in joining efforts to support any of these schools are invited to call Schmid at 314-589-6816 or Oxford at 314-771-8882.

Historic Preservation Mid-Century Modern North St. Louis Old North Schools SLPS

Adams Recommends Keeping Ames School Open

by Michael R. Allen

St. Louis Public Schools Superintendent Kelvin Adams is recommending that Ames Visual and Performing Arts (VPA) Elementary School at 2900 Hadley Street in Old North St. Louis remain open. On Thursday, February 26, Adams recommended to the Special Administrative Board (SAB) that the Board reject the proposal from consultants MGT of America that Ames combine with Shaw VPA Elementary School at the Blewett Middle School on Cass Avenue, and the two schools’ buildings close.

While the SAB will not approve Adams’ recommendations until March 12, the shift from the consultants’ recommendations is welcome in Old North, a neighborhood that remains beset by an earlier school closure. In 2007, the Board of Education closed Webster Middle School at 2127 N. 11th Street. Webster is a large historic school whose site encompasses an entire city block. Since its closure, which came after the opening of charter school Confluence Academy in Old North, the district has not placed Webster for sale nor determined its future use. The building sits vacant in a neighborhood saddled with many large, vacant historic buildings, including the partly-stabilized Mullanphy Emigrant Home, the Meier and Pohlmann factory and the burned-out Fourth Baptist Church. The neighborhood did not need another building added to that list.

Opened in 1956, Ames is a fine mid-century building that provides a pleasant contrast with its 19th-century red-brick surroundings. Ames closes eastward views down both Wright and Sullivan streets. In 1992 under the Capital Improvement Program, Ames was expanded with a substantial addition. Later, in 2006, Ames closed for a period to be fully air-conditioned. Ames is a polling place, community meeting space and has been a source for student volunteers in neighborhood garden programs.

Historic Preservation Schools SLPS South St. Louis Tower Grove East Tower Grove South

Shenandoah School May Be Spared

by Michael R. Allen

Shenandoah Elementary School at 3412 Shenandoah Avenue in Tower Grove East received a reprieve tonight when St. Louis Public Schools Superintendent recommended to the Special Administrative Board (SAB) that the school remain open in its current building. Although the final decision of Adams’ recommendation won’t be made by the SAB until March 12, the news is a relief to a neighborhood concerned that the future a community resource might become a huge question mark.

Under the proposal from consultants MGT of America unveiled in January, Shenandoah was set to be combined with Mann Elemantary School in Tower Grove Soth and Sherman Elementary School in Shaw in a new building to be build “near” Shenandoah. Neighborhood residents feared that “near” in a dense, landlocked neighborhood meant “on” and that an architectural gem would be lost. The MGT recommendations came only a year after the SLPS had proposed closing Shenandoah outright.

The school is a remarkable building, known widely for the braided limestone columns of its striking entrance (pictured above). Designed by Rockwell Milligan and built in 1925, Shenandoah School is an excellent example of the eclectic strain in 1920s American architecture. Combining Spanish Revival and Renaissance Revival elements on an imposing buff-brick body with a red tile roof, Shenandoah is an unique school buidling and a treasure to its neighbors.

Unfortunately, Adams’ recommendations still include the closure and merger of Mann and Sherman in a new school. This time, Mann is suggested for demolition.

Historic Preservation Schools SLPS

Adams Proposes 17, Not 29, School Closings

by Michael R. Allen

Tonight, St. Louis Public Schools (SLPS) Superintendent Kelvin Adams presented to the Special Administrative Board (SAB) his recommendations for school closures and consolidations. While consultants MGT of America had recommended 29 closures, Adams recommends 17. Adams’ plan makes one wonder why MGT was hired at all, given how far off their plan was from the needs of the district identified by its superintendent.

Adams recommends closing the following schools in June 2009:
Ashland Branch
Baden Elementary School
Henry eMINTS Elemntary School
Clark eMINTS Elementary School
Big Picture at Des Peres School
Mark Twain Elementary School
Meda P. Washington Early Childhood Center
Scruggs Elementary School
Shepard Elementary School
Simmons-Marshall School
Blewett Middle School
Stowe Middle School
Big Picture at Turner School
Roosevelet Ninth Grade Center at Humboldt School
Big Picture at Kottmeyer School

Adams recommends closing the following schools in June 2011:
Cote Brilliante Elementary School
Mann Elementary eMINTS School
Sherman Elementary School

The following schools that MGT had proposed closing will remain open:
Gallaudet School
Patrick Henry Elementary School
Mallinckrodt Elementary School
Ames Elementary VPA School
Shaw Elementary VPS School
Shenandoah Elementary School
Hickey Elementary School
Bunche Middle School
L’Overture Middle School
Langston Middle School
McKinley Middle School
Stevens Middle School
Gateway High School (possibly in new building on site)
Nottingham CJAT School
Cleveland High @ Pruitt (no return to Cleveland)
Northwest Academy of Law

Adams retains the idea from MGT of constructing two new elementary schools — one south and one north. The south side school will combine Mann and Sherman and astonishingly is proposed for the Mann School site.

Among other recommendations from Adams is a proposal to turn the 13 SLPS-run community education centers into full service schools along the line proposed by the Board of Education; and two new alternative schools that could occupy existing buildings that have scored an overall 70 or higher in MGT’s survey.

Overall, the closures will save the district slightly less than $14 million.

The Special Administrative Board will make its final decision at a public meeting held on March 12, 2009.