The St. Louis School system is in the process of closing as many as 10-12 schools in an effort to consolidate resources and use existing schools more effectively. The question now comes how best to utilize these unneeded school buildings. Most controversially, should some of them be used for Charter Schools?
Our community is known for its conservative and possessive attitudes that have frequently kept us from encouraging growth. But let me show how Chicago resolves the politically and controversial reuse of school buildings no longer needed. The Chicago Public School System embraces charter schools. In fact they lease their unused buildings to Charter Schools for $1.00 per year. The charters operate under the watchful eye of the school system, yet are independent schools and their academic results are part of the overall Chicago outcomes. This solution benefits everyone.
St. Louis could do the same if the public schools and charter schools would decide to collaborate. Then the public school facilities would be in full use and healthy competition enhanced. Other buildings could be converted into condominiums (as some already are) thus further strengthening the neighborhood and community. Such a solution when worked out properly would be a win-win situation for all.
In this period of scarce resources and uncertainty of the future of our schools, we could begin to collaborate for the benefit of all the students in St. Louis They are counting on us to provide them with school choices and high quality educational opportunities. If St. Louis wants to keep students in the city and well educated, then school choices are one of the most effective ways to do that.
(The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of St. Louis Public Radio.)
Susan Uchitelle is a consultant for the Voluntary Interdistrict Coordinating Council.