This fall, kindergartners in East St. Louis District 189 will not attend Miles Davis Elementary. And fifth-graders will be moved up to Mason-Clark or Lincoln middle schools, depending on the student’s address, instead of attending the neighborhood elementary.
It’s an issue of space, according to a fact sheet provided by the district on Friday afternoon. The middle schools are operating at about 50 percent capacity as schools for grades 6-8; adding the fifth grade to the schools will boost that to about 65 to 70 percent capacity.
District leaders will outline the plan to close Miles Davis and shuffle students at a “Key Communicator Network Meeting” at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Mason-Clark Middle School at 5510 State St. in East St. Louis. It is open to the public.
Teachers and administrators at Miles Davis, which is a kindergarten center, would be reassigned. Fifth-grade teachers might remain at their current schools or might be reassigned. The fact sheet said parents would be notified at registration for kindergartners, and parents of students entering grades 5-6 will be notified no later than May 23.
The district held its first public hearing on the plan last week and had about 35 parents attend, district spokeswoman Kelli Hawkins said. She said generally speaking, parents “just wanted more information.”
“They supported some of the ideas, and some they didn’t necessarily,” Hawkins said.
The school board and the Financial Oversight Panel have approved the moves. District 189 did not provide information on how much money it expects to save by closing Miles Davis Elementary, which holds 19 classrooms of about 25 students each.
The fact sheet says advantages to kindergarten students attending elementary schools with other grades include collaboration between kindergarten and first-grade teachers, and siblings being able to attend the same schools.
Realigning schools — moving grades from one building to another — is a relatively common event every couple of years or so, said Susan Sarfaty, the superintendent of the Regional Office of Education. The last district in St. Clair County to realign was Harmony 175, which moved its fourth grade to the Emge building to create the Harmony Intermediate Center for grades 4-6. Before that, Wolf Branch was the last to realign for the 2014-2015 school year.
“It’s all over the board,” Sarfaty said, as for how districts arrange which grades attend what buildings. The county has 27 public school districts, ranging in size from St. Libory’s 80-student, one-school district to East St. Louis’ 6,000-student, 10-school district. Some are grade schools for grades K-8, others are unit districts.
“There is not a one-size-fits-all (approach) in our county,” she said.
She specified that the ROE knows about realignments but has no official role in them, even when a school closes. She said there are several reasons a district might consider realignment, including space and curriculum.
“You want to make sure you have enough rooms and desks for each grade level,” Sarfety said.
Curriculum and student maturity also factor into the equation, Sarfety said. For instance, the former teacher said second- and third-grade curriculum have more in common than third- and fourth-grade curriculum.
“There is a real solid break between third and fourth grades,” she said. “But there’s also a lot of buildings that won’t hold fourth through eighth. But break or no break, if you don’t have enough space, you can’t put them in (the same school.)
Changes to East St. Louis schools
Changes to East St. Louis schools
Students in sixth through twelth grades next school year will be unaffected by changes; as will students who will be in first through fourth grades.
▪ Avant Elementary
▪ Gordon Bush Elementary
▪ Miles Davis Elementary
▪ Dunbar Elementary
▪ Annette Officer Elementary
▪ Katie Harper-Wright
▪ Lincoln Middle School
▪ Mason Clark Middle School
▪ East St. Louis Senior High School