Tuesday, July 15, 2003

School closings are coming, and numerous properties will be sold off by the St. Louis Public Schools.

In some ways, this is probably a good thing. Many of the buildings are not used much, if at all. Some could likely fetch a decent price; others might not. For example, the St. Louis Public Schools greenhouse complex at 3808 Blow St. and the former Lindenwood Elementary School at 3815 McCausland Ave., are both in relatively high land-value locations. Lindenwood might not be a bad candidate for condominium conversion. The Greenhouse site could be retained as a public open space and perhaps upgraded by an interested group, or perhaps it could be a site for new construction housing development.

But it does seem silly to close schools like Garfield Elementary at 2612 Wyoming and Jefferson. It is in the heart of the South St. Louis areas where many public school students live. It is 70% occupied, has a decent capacity of 270, albeit below the 300 student capacity target set by the new management team. It is only 66 years old, a school building from the 1930s like numerous others.

The new management team of Alvarez and Marsal seems to be very short-sighted. They are focusing on cutting costs now, with little thought to future needs given the thousands of students who will be returning to city schools as the desegregation program winds down.

Complex issues, to be sure. I just wonder - is the former CEO of Brooks Brothers, Bill Roberti, the best person to be making decisions that will affect the lives of our children and the image of our neighborhoods for decades to come?

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