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On January 29, the Special Administrative Board got the first look at the proposed Facilities Management Plan for the St. Louis Public Schools. The plan will make detailed recommendations for the district's inventory, including school closings. No doubt, the plan will raise controversy. What the plan must do is stir active and thoughtful public input.
The initial public meetings on the facilities plan hosted by the District in November had sparse attendance, making the results a poor measure of public sentiment. It's a sure bet that a closure list will get people to rise up, but the chance to do so is limited.
The District will hold two special community forums for public comments - Wednesday, February 4, from 6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. at Roosevelt High School, 3230 Hartford St., and Saturday February 7, from 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. at Vashon High School, 3035 Cass Ave. Public comments may also be submitted via the Internet starting today, by visiting http://www.slps.org. The District will accept comments on the MGT presentation via the Internet through February 8 or phone at 314-345-2367.
We have less than one week to engage a process for planning the future of some of the greatest cultural wealth this city has - its magnificent public school buildings. City residents need to take the time to attend one of the public meetings or send comments to the District. The future of a proud legacy hinges on the week ahead of us. We must go out and voice our support for safeguards that will protect historic schools, promote smart planning and keep our neighborhoods from a wave of vacant buildings.
I hope to see you at one of the meetings.
(The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of St. Louis Public Radio.)
Michael Allen is an architectural historian and historic preservation consultant working in private practice. Most recently he served as the Assistant Director of Landmarks Association of St. Louis, the region's historic preservation advocacy organization. He is also editor of Ecology of Absence, a website with accompanying blog that documents and analyzes changes in the built environments of St. Louis, Chicago and other Midwestern cities. His articles on architecture and policy have appeared in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the St. Louis Beacon, St. Louis American, Arch City Chronicle and Omnitectural Forum. In addition to his professional work, Allen has been rehabilitating a house in the city's Old North St. Louis neighborhood for the past two years.