SOUTH ST. LOUIS, MO. (KTVI) – On Wednesday night, students, staff and alumni made impassioned pleas to keep their St. Louis magnet school from shutting down.
At Wednesday’s school board meeting, St. Louis Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Kelvin Adams recommended closing Cleveland NJROTC Academy. However, alumni and students strongly spoke out against it; one alumna flew in from Hawaii for the meeting, and another, stationed in Afghanistan, called in to share his thoughts.
Several students gave eloquent arguments to save their school. Citing the school’s high level of achievement, student Eric Harrison says, “To shut down a school that’s successful is like shutting down a business because it has overstock.”
The Naval ROTC academy has 100% graduation rates, 95% attendance rates, and meets AYP academic standards.
The problem, according to the superintendent, is low enrollment.
At this board meeting, Adams discussed economic challenges facing the school system in the coming year, and suggested several ways to balance the budget. These money-saving measures include an early retirement program, staffing reduction, and school closures.
The school system has 21 schools operating below 60% capacity, and four of those, including Cleveland, have been recommended for closure. According to Adams' presentation, closing Cleveland would save the school district $594,000 every year.
However, students and alumni say you can't put a price on the impact that the naval school has had on their lives. Cleveland Senior Torshawna Griffin says, “I come from a low income family, it’s allowed me to travel to go see different schools and have the opportunity to excel.”
Cleveland alumna and current parent adds, “I’m a firm believer that this school works, I believe in it so much that I passed it onto my children, my son will hopefully pass it on to his children.”
The school system has tried to work with the school to increase enrollment, to no avail. Adams says, “I’ve given them a target, that target has not been met for the last three years. The target was a minimum of 300 kids."
The original target was 400 students, but right now the enrollment is below 270 students.
A group of alumni feel the low enrollment could be reversed if the school could have its own building. Robyn McCaleb says, “In my perspective, I would not enroll my child in a school within a school. And as a student, they don’t have the pride to call the school their own.”
The school board will likely vote on whether to close Cleveland at their March 14th board meeting. In the meantime, there will be two public forums for folks to weigh in. They’ll both be held March 2nd, the first at Vashon High School from 10am to 12pm, and the second will be at Central VPA from 12:30pm to 2:30pm.
Right now the plan is for the school to close gradually over the next three years.
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