• Lazy days of summer dwindle for students

    If any students or parents were in denial about the end of summer break, the weekend should have been a snap back to reality.

    Thousands in Hazelwood, St. Louis and Wentzville attended back-to-school fairs as districts geared up for the new academic year. Some of the earliest start dates are this week, with Francis Howell students heading back to class on Wednesday, followed by Ferguson-Florissant on Thursday. Most area districts will resume classes the week of Aug. 13.

    “The summer went very quick,” said mother-of-three Elizabeth Pecoraro, whose daughter sang Saturday with a choir from McCurdy Elementary at the St. Louis Mills Mall as part of the Hazelwood School District’s fair. “I wish they would wait” until after Labor Day, she said.

    Armed with lists from teachers, Pecoraro was happy to report she had finished shopping for school supplies during the annual sales tax holiday that ran Friday to Sunday — and did it for under $100. Next on her to-do list was getting back into the routine of waking up early for school, she said.

    At Chaifetz Arena on Saturday, St. Louis Public Schools partnered with the St. Louis Community Empowerment Foundation at a similar back-to-school event where kids could get free school supplies and haircuts.

    Wearing hot-pink glitter boots, Aryelle Beasley sat next to her bag of classroom goodies and munched on a turkey hot dog, pausing every now and then as she listened to her mother talk about sending her off to kindergarten at Mallinckrodt Academy, one of the city’s magnet schools for children who test into the program. Her brother will be a third-grader at the school.

    “It’s a new school year and they’re excited,” said Frantella Beasley, who came to the fair with her sister-in-law and Aryelle’s cousins. “It was a busy summer though. They didn’t get much rest.”

    The new school year means hundreds of Parkway students in the north area of the district will attend different schools than they did last year. The attendance boundaries changed because several elementary schools in the north part of the district were above capacity while other schools nearby had room for more students.

    In St. Charles County, sixth-graders and freshmen in the Francis Howell School District will take part in activities today to help ease the change to middle and high school when school starts on Wednesday.

    For the first time in decades, administrators at St. Louis Public Schools are anticipating an uptick in enrollment. The district is preparing for more than 2,000 students who formerly attended six Imagine charter schools to show up on the first day of school. The state shut the charter schools after years of academic failure and financial mismanagement. The city district has hired 90 additional teachers and planned bus routes and leased a building specifically for those students.

    Most of the former Imagine students will attend school at a familiar building — the former Imagine Academy of Environmental Science and Math at Chouteau and South Spring avenues.

    The expected spike in enrollment for the school district, which lost state accreditation in 2007, comes after a decades-long exodus of thousands of students to suburban and charter schools. Last year, the district had about 23,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade. Ten years earlier, it served nearly 40,000 children.

    The district’s expansion and focus on its preschool program also could add to enrollment this year. The district created and filled 740 additional preschool slots during the last school year, expanding its tuition-free program. Nearly all of those preschoolers who attended in 2011-12 and are eligible for kindergarten this year have registered with the district for the new school year, said spokesman Patrick Wallace.

    In Illinois, East St. Louis district officials are working to push back the start of school one week.

    More time is needed to verify enrollment and staffing requirements, as well as to repair at least $50,000 in damage from recent vandalism at Miles Davis Elementary School, where all kindergartners will attend this year. Along with a $15 million deficit, the district is caught in a court battle between the state and the elected local school board, spurred by the Illinois Board of Education’s vote to remove those members in June.

    “We’re working on registration and calling students and making sure they are going to be here, making sure we don’t spend any unnecessary money,” said Assistant Superintendent Beth Shepperd.