• By Elisa Crouch St. Louis Post-Dispatch March 31, 2016

    St. Louis Public Schools will hold its largest open house in recent memory on Saturday in an attempt to recruit more students and showcase the improvements that have been made in many parts of the district.

    From 9 a.m. to noon, doors at 33 neighborhood elementary schools will be open for any parent, student, alum or resident interested in learning about a building’s academics and activities. Principals will be at each school, as well as teachers and students to welcome visitors and answer questions. Superintendent Kelvin Adams plans to attend several of the open houses to greet visitors.

    “This year our real wake-up call was losing 1,500 to 1,700 students,” said Rachel Seward, deputy superintendent of institutional advancement, referring to the overall loss in district enrollment. “Our goal is to make up that gap, that deficit, and stabilize enrollment.”

    In the past, open houses in St. Louis Public Schools have been limited to magnet and choice schools, which will not be open on Saturday. They open their doors in the fall for prospective families, and then again in the spring for those who have enrolled. Neighborhood schools, which have no admissions criteria, have never been part of this kind of outreach effort.

    If the open house event is successful, it may be expanded to include middle and high schools next year.

    The district has taken a number of steps to figure out what it must do, beyond improving academic outcomes, to attract more students and to keep them from leaving for charter schools or suburban districts.

    Last fall, the district paid Thumbs Up Marketing $15,000 to contact up to 5,000 prospective families as part of an awareness and recruitment campaign about the school system’s performance. The telemarketing firm also surveyed parents about what drives their decision making in selecting a school. The open houses are partly in response to the survey work.

    The first 100 visitors at each will receive a school supply pouch, filled with a pencil, ink pen, eraser, ruler and pencil sharpener. All visitors will receive a free meal, and there will also be temporary tattoos for the children.

    Last year, gains made in the city’s neighborhood schools were so significant that St. Louis Public Schools experienced its best performance in more than a decade, as measured by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

    Those gains were primarily in academics and attendance.

    For a list and locations of neighborhood elementary schools, visitwww.slps.org/comevisit.