• Three St. Louis schools, 134 jobs face budget ax

    St. Louis Post Dispatch * 14 hours ago  • 

    ST. LOUIS • City schools Superintendent Kelvin Adams laid out a proposal Wednesday to close three schools, eliminate 134 jobs and increase class sizes across the system in response to increasing costs and shrinking revenue.

    Among the potential casualties: Sherman Elementary, L’Ouverture Middle and Cleveland NJROTC High — schools that have faced closure before, but were spared. Sherman and L’Ouverture would close after this school year, leaving their buildings empty. Cleveland, the district’s military magnet school, would not accept freshmen this fall, and graduate its last class in 2016.

    In a packed room at the school district’s downtown headquarters, Adams laid out plans to trim more than $14 million from a $282.2 million budget. Much of the savings would be by cutting 134 positions, including 82 teachers and 20 nurses, counselors and social workers. Most of the teaching positions would be eliminated by increasing class sizes by two to three children in each grade — a proposal usually met with opposition by the Special Administrative Board.

    But it was Adams’ recommendation to close Cleveland that drew the most attention from the crowd. Dozens of faculty and cadets in uniform showed up in protest. They told the three-member board that Cleveland performs better academically than most district high schools, and that it boasts a 100 percent graduation rate. They talked of inspirational teachers, their school family and the leadership skills they’ve learned there.

    “It doesn’t deserve to be closed down,” said Will Mason, a freshman.

    The closures and staff reductions are essential to balancing next year’s budget, Adams said. And Cleveland has had trouble in recent years attracting students.

    Local and state education funds aren’t keeping pace with increasing labor and other costs. Several federal grants are expected to end. Employee benefits are expected to rise by more than 10 percent to $29 million. Pension costs are to rise to nearly $28 million – about 10 percent of the district’s operating budget.

    “This is a major, major deal from my perspective, of how we’re going to manage the district,” Adams said of pension costs. A meeting with retirees is planned for March.

    Adams is also proposing to offer early retirement incentives to 401 employees, potentially saving the district $3.5 million over three years.

    At the same time, the school district is moving forward with plans to open a medical magnet high school designed to prepare students for careers in medicine and medical research. The school would open with 75 freshmen this fall, and probably share a building with another school.

    Adams is also proposing to modify the school day’s start and end times at some schools in response to parent requests. Doing so, however, would require 94 additional buses at a cost of $5.7 million.

    Two forums will be held Saturday to gather feedback on the proposals, at 10 a.m. to noon at Vashon High, 3035 Cass Avenue; and from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. at Central Visual Performing Arts High, 3125 South Kingshighway.

    The Special Administrative Board plans to vote next month on Adams’ recommendations.