With one week before the St. Louis Public Schools Board votes on a proposed school closure plan, Superintendent Kelvin Adams said he is wrapping up the last of about 15 meetings he’s held over the last month with concerned residents and organizations.
The Board last met at Clyde C. Miller Academy on Dec. 15, where members voted 6-1 to move the vote about closures to their Jan. 12 meeting per Adams’ recommendation.
“Well, I sensed that there was some concern from the community that we had not done what we said we have done, which I think everybody can verify that we had,” he told The St. Louis American this week.
While he wasn’t ready to discuss specific ideas brought up in those meetings, Adams said they have provided some context for not only residents, but himself as well.
Adams said he worked on his plan — a recommendation to the board to permanently close 11 schools — for almost 14 months before recommending specific schools to be closed.
Even so, the plan was met with outcry from community members who felt the board was set to vote on the closures too soon after the names of schools were released.
The superintendent said he was not surprised at this reaction and believes a number of things happened to cause this community-level response — one being the public did not believe the board was actually going to go through with finalizing the process, which was supposed to conclude in March2020, because of the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.
Additionally, he said he believes people don't normally react to something until it is actually named or identified.
Adams pointed to the national dialogue about societal inequities currently happening due to the pandemic as a contributing factor to the public reaction to the closure list.
He said it does concern him that seven of the 11 schools on his recommended closure list are north of Delmar Boulevard, but he pointed to population numbers to support the closures — specifically that south St. Louis has almost twice the population of north St. Louis.
“So it would stand to reason that the schools that we would likely look at … would be schools in north St. Louis. Am I concerned about that? Yes. But it is a data number, it's a number that I can't run away from and the community can't run away from. We don't have as many people in one part of the city as we have in the other part of the city.”
The schools north of Delmar Boulevard on the list to be closed are: Clay, Dunbar, Farragut, Ford and Hickey, all elementary schools; Sumner High School and Northwest Academy of Law High School.
The other schools on the closure list are: Monroe Elementary, just south of theBenton Park neighborhood; Fanning Middle School in Tower Grove South; Cleveland High School in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood and Carnahan High School in Dutchtown.
“I want to thank the community for the willingness to be patient and flexible as we go through this process,” Adams said. “It's not easy. It's like the death of a person and that's very difficult. So I'm not at all angry, upset or frustrated. I just recognize that this process has been difficult for all parties, especially the community and families.”