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.