St. Louis district prepares for influx of students

ST. LOUIS (AP) — For the first time in decades, St. Louis Public Schools are preparing to expand rather than contract.

The decision to shut down Imagine charter schools has those students looking to relocate for the 2012-13 school year. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch (http://bit.ly/J3A1Nt) reports that up to six public schools could open this fall to absorb up to 3,800 students from Imagine schools.

The Missouri Board of Education voted last month to close all six of the Imagine schools for academic failure. About 580 of those students have enrolled in magnet or choice schools. But nearly 800 Imagine students have already enrolled in the St. Louis school system. Many more are still deciding.

Superintendent Kelvin Adams on Thursday told the special board that oversees the district that demand will determine how many extra schools are needed, and that may not be realized until summer. He said district officials are working with Imagine board members on how best to help Imagine students enter the city district.

Meanwhile, the district transportation department has been meeting to determine how many additional buses and routes will be needed. Adams expects to hire up to 218 certified teachers and up to six new principals.

St. Louis' population peaked around the middle of the 20th century. Exodus to the suburbs has cut the city's population by more than half, and the number of students in the district has declined sharply over the years.

The district has long hoped for an influx of students, but it could create problems if too many wait until the last minute to enroll, said Richard Gaines, a member of the Special Administrative Board appointed by the state to oversee the district after it lost accreditation.

The district wouldn't build new schools but would reopen shuttered ones. Most are already being used by the district for alternative programs that could be moved elsewhere. For example, the Meda P. Washington building currently houses a program to help dropouts earn high school diplomas. It may become an elementary school, so the diploma program would move to Beaumont High School.

The only vacant building that would reopen is the Stowe school, which would need repairs estimated at $1.1 million.

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