The Board of Education of the City of St. Louis was spurred to action on developing a Citywide plan, following the closure of seven schools and the reformatting of one high school to a middle school. In addition to this very difficult decision to close schools, the Board realized that school closings would continue to happen unless we worked as a community to undertake a planning process for education – something that had not happened since the City was founded and boundaries established in 1823. The City has changed, the population has declined, but there has been no effort to plan for the redistribution of educational resources in ways that would benefit current City residents. The Board has opened the door to change and invited the community to have a seat at the table.
The City of St. Louis was founded in 1823, just 15 years earlier than the formation of a public school district. It was destined to grow into a center of commerce and trade, attracting thousands of families. St. Louis’ current boundaries were established in 1876 when voters approved the separation of St. Louis City and County. The school district grew along with the City in leaps and bounds. In fact, there was a veritable population explosion in 1840 and 1860 led by German and Irish immigrants who settled in St. Louis.
Fueled by emerging transportation systems, St. Louis continued its rapid growth and established itself as a major manufacturing center. Following WWII, the City’s population peaked at 856,000, as compared to 301,578 during the 2020 Census. By 1950, the population became landlocked within its boundaries, which now included neglected housing sites that had been neglected during the Great Depression and during WWII. At that point, it was understood that any new growth would now have to occur in the County.
Although St. Louis City continued to attract (some) families, many of the immigrant communities migrated into the suburbs (and out of the City). From 1951-1999, it seemed that no intervention would succeed in stemming the loss of residents. Although the City was successful in building its inner core, the loss of families remained consistent. (Edited from the narrative at stlouis-mo.gov.).
St. Louis Public Schools peaked at 111,233 in 1970 but over time, enrollment continued to drop. Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, enrollment dropped to 21,000 and, in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, dropped further to 18,000 (TO BE UPDATED).