St. Louis Public Schools Discussion Thread

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My wife and I have two kids, a three year old and a 6 month old. We bought a house 2 years ago in Lindenwood Park and absolutely love living in South City. However, we are pretty bummed out about the limited options we have when it comes to sending out kids to school. We are not Catholic and therefore the plethora of Catholic primary schools around us really aren't an option. The St. Louis City schools are pathetic and currently there's only one decent option, Kenard which is a gifted primary school. However, Kenard is nearly impossible to get into so its not like we can set our hopes on that option. That basically leaves us with sending our kids to either a non-denominational or christian private school. However, these schools are all outrageously expensive. Westminster Academy in West County is 14K plus a year!!! So, based upon all of the above, we will likely have to move in a couple of years to Surburban hell in order to find a decent school district. It breaks my heart but I just don't see how we can continue living in the city.

So....are there any options I'm leaving out? My wife and I have researched this subject a bit but are looking for opinions from somebody else.

I know some people say living in Webster or Kirkwood is a good alternative to living in the City but home prices there are VERY steep. I'd have a very difficult time spending $400 K plus on a home that the same size as our home in the city that's almost $150 K less.
You don't have to be Catholic to send your kids to a Catholic school.

There are also some decent charter schools in the area. I have a friend who sends his daughter to Gateway Science Academy St. Louis. He has been happy with the school and curriculum thus far.
Send them to the Catholic school and tell them to ignore the stupidity, i.e. the Catholic parts.

And don't play glass bottom boat with the priests.
Stix, Mallinkrodt, Shaw, Kennard, McKinley, Metro, St. Margaret of Scotland, Soulard School, Mullanphy, Gateway, City Garden Montessori, South City Prep, Language Immersion...we have friends with lovely, intelligent little ones at each of these. Remember, no school is perfect. If you are not afraid of your child being around children of mixed economic and racial backgrounds, the city has many options. If that is something you simply cannot tolerate, be honest with yourself, and move on or go to a private school that keep those variables out of the equation. I really think you have to try the options before you paint with a broad brush and just say "city schools suck" without zero first hand knowledge. You'd be surprised how many "city lovers" pack it up for the burbs without researching or testing the waters. Best of luck and PM me if you want more info.
Mark Groth wrote:
Stix, Mallinkrodt, Shaw, Kennard, McKinley, Metro, St. Margaret of Scotland, Soulard School, Mullanphy, Gateway, City Garden Montessori, South City Prep, Language Immersion...we have friends with lovely, intelligent little ones at each of these. Remember, no school is perfect. If you are not afraid of your child being around children of mixed economic and racial backgrounds, the city has many options. If that is something you simply cannot tolerate, be honest with yourself, and move on or go to a private school that keep those variables out of the equation. I really think you have to try the options before you paint with a broad brush and just say "city schools suck" without zero first hand knowledge. You'd be surprised how many "city lovers" pack it up for the burbs without researching or testing the waters. Best of luck and PM me if you want more info.

I have no kids, but do live in the city. I don't feel like any child I may eventually have should be subjected to "testing the waters" with their education. Especially their formative years. Until the majority of opinion is positive about the SLPS, I'm not willing to risk my kid's education on it.
^I can see that perspective.

I do think the point being made by Mark, however, is that there are good options with great reputations that people fail to investigate due to a predetermined bias against the SLPS.
^^ Testing the waters doesn't mean throw your child into a school and see what happens. Visit the schools, talk to other parents, talk to Mark, meet his friends.
ricke002 wrote:
I have no kids, but do live in the city. I don't feel like any child I may eventually have should be subjected to "testing the waters" with their education. Especially their formative years. Until the majority of opinion is positive about the SLPS, I'm not willing to risk my kid's education on it.

Thanks for your honesty. Many will not just say this and will beat around the bush for hours sidestepping their real opinion. You clearly need popular opinion to be in your favor before you make decisions and that's cool; that's probably a big reason why Lindenwood Park appeals to you. It's a safe, homogenous neighborhood that most in the region would agree is a secure bet for easy, safe and convenient yet still "city living". Where you send your kids is a very personal thing, it's in many ways a direct reflection of your parenting. Active parents don't take this lightly, and this debate becomes a personal one very quickly. I didn't mean that my kids futures are an experiment where I'm using them to see how good/bad a situation is. That's just stupid. What I mean is that once you start talking to your friends and neighbors with kids, you start finding out where they go to school and what options you might have. You visit the school, you interview a couple teachers, you look around at the families and kids that are there. To me the quality of families and kids are far more important than the facilities, books, curriculum, etc. Again, the needs of a kid are very personal and the point I'm trying to make is that for some kids and some parents, there are rational, even excellent (if not superior) options in St. Louis vs. the great almighty suburban school system.
Mark Groth wrote:
there are rational, even excellent (if not superior) options in St. Louis vs. the great almighty suburban school system.


Does anyone have data to back up the point made that some city options are superior to suburban public schools?

I think the original poster had said catholic schools aren't an option. That's seems to limit the possibilities even further.

Also, I feel a lot of the conversation on city vs suburbs for child rearing often discounts the quality of life for children in the city. I can tell you my comfort level with my child riding his bike or playing on streets around the grove, tower grove south, shaw, fox park, and Hill neighborhoods is wildly low. In other words, "school options" is but a piece of the equation.
ttricamo, I'm curious about your comfort level with your child playing around those areas. Is it due to crime issues, traffic issues, or something else? I perceive the Hill as a great area for kids, except for the heavy car traffic, but that's something that would exist in the suburbs too. Just curious as we continue our search for neighborhoods in the city.
ttricamo wrote:
Does anyone have data to back up the point made that some city options are superior to suburban public schools?

http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/features/2011/americas-best-high-schools.html Metro usually ranks in the top 100 in the nation. And always the best in Missouri.
Your questions about open play are legit. I think that playtime is much more structured with little ones these days in general; lots of parental oversight and helicoptering. My biggest fear is traffic, not crime or thugs. Kids ride bikes, scooter, boards and play basketball in alleys, they go to the parks, etc. I am terrified of my kids crossing Jefferson or Grand; but I'd probably be as concerned with Chesterfield Parkway or Olive in the swanky parts of the suburbs.

Back to schools, the biggest frustration for me is not having the full programs all rolled into one. If I went to St. Margarets or Parkway, I'd have the sports, band, or other extracurricular stuff all roled into one. I wish my kids had sports teams at their schools so they could play with their friends. Instead we sign them up at St. Margarets (a great and welcoming set of parents/kids) and that works, but it's a lot of extra work and driving for us to get them around to practices and games. We have to sign them up for private music lessons, because the afterschool music programs in our magnet doesn't fit the bill for us. You definitely have to work harder as a parent if you choose the city systems. It's not a one stop shop like my schools growing up in Belleville, ILL or my friends experiences in the wealthy districts.
I am saying this is the least confrontational way possible, but some of you are concerned about your kids crossing streets in the city? Really?

I have heard a lot of "reasons" for avoiding the city, but this is honestly a first.

Just for some perspective, I just turned 25 and spent ages two to 18 living a block off Kingshighway. Went to school at a catholic school in South City that was about a mile/mile and a half from my house. Walked home from school everyday from age 8 to my last day of 8th grade. Went to highschool at the U. High. I know a total of two people who have been hit by a car. The first was because they ran into the middle of Hampton not at a crosswalk (Clearly their fault). The other was in the county.

Come on now.
It remains true that putting your child in a car twice a day for a 20min drive to school puts them in more danger than living in the city. Traffic accidents are the number one cause of death for children age 4-18. Is it possible that your child (or mine) will be hit by a car in the city? Kidnapped? Shot? I guess, but it's much, much more likely that they will be seriously injured or die in a car wreck.

Also, these choices are about balance. If you demand walk-in closets, a two-car garage, 3,000 sq ft. and big yard, well... That's a bit of an exaggeration, but there will be trade-offs. We're spoiled with great homes in the city, but homes can be found in Kirkwood and Webster, etc. for a good price, you might just have to park one of the cars outside.
We know a few families - young professionals - who are having great experiences with the charter schools, the foreign language immersion schools, in particular. We also know some people who send their kids to Malinckrodt/Kenard and are very happy.

Finally, I can understand your reticence regarding Catholic schools, but I wouldn't necessarily rule them out. In the city, the Catholic schools tend to have a little more diversity, especially in parishes like St. Margaret of Scotland, which I have heard to be especially open and welcoming to non-Catholics.
debaliviere wrote:
We know a few families - young professionals - who are having great experiences with the charter schools, the foreign language immersion schools, in particular. We also know some people who send their kids to Malinckrodt/Kenard and are very happy.

Finally, I can understand your reticence regarding Catholic schools, but I wouldn't necessarily rule them out. In the city, the Catholic schools tend to have a little more diversity, especially in parishes like St. Margaret of Scotland, which I have heard to be especially open and welcoming to non-Catholics.


Agreed - IMHO there are some really good choices in the city for grade schools, both secular and religious. I think part of the "goodness" comes from parents who have actively sought out a good school for their kids and are (naturally?) more involved with school activities.

OTOH, I've commented before that the big problem is High School. Not every city kid can go to Metro, and if the Catholic High Schools aren't an option (and even if they are, here comes that 20-minute drive problem again) what are the choices? And beyond that, what are the *affordable* HS choices?

My hope is that the same group of involved parents who currently have grade-school-age kids will "move up" to being involved parents at the high school level.
To the original poster, there are options outside of Catholic schools. A few in your neighborhood that could work for you:

Charter: Gateway Science Academy (in Lindenwood Park, good test scores and expanding student base, growing to offer K - 12)

Public Magnet: Mason & Dewey in Dogtown. These are magnet schools but you can get in them without much hassle.

Kennard & Mallinkrodt: Both close to you but harder to get in to, but a possibility. If you get the first child in there is a higher probability of the second child getting in.

Or, enrollment laws statewide may change this year. By the time your kids are in school, they may be able to go to a neighboring county district like MRH, Clayton, Webster, or Affton.

Good luck.

Scott Ogilvie
24th Ward Alderman
jmstokes wrote:
ttricamo, I'm curious about your comfort level with your child playing around those areas. Is it due to crime issues, traffic issues, or something else? I perceive the Hill as a great area for kids, except for the heavy car traffic, but that's something that would exist in the suburbs too. Just curious as we continue our search for neighborhoods in the city.


All of the above. I have a house on the Hill two doors down from St. Ambrose. Rather unfortunately, they lock up the playground after school and during the summer. Berra Park is the only other public place on the Hill for kids to congregate. Quite frankly, the only other tween-age kids on the Hill that I've seen I would not want my children associating with.

I knew Metro was very highly ranked. How tough is it to get into that school? I imagine there has to be a waiting list?

Alex always brings up the "die in a car wreck" stats, which I agree with. I don't agree, however, these stats are at all applicable to StL City vs. StL County. People in St. Louis City drive as much as people in any of the suburbs. Moreover, I know of elementary schools serving Ballwin, Florissant, Parkway, and Kirkwood that are walk-able on the level of St. Ambrose serving the Hill. And, most students at Ambrose DO NOT live on the Hill; their parents drive them to school everyday.

Also, and I always ask this: Does anyone know of anybody with Teenagers in the City? Little kids are in abundance and very manageable. I rarely hear of urban families with teens in the City. Not say they're not out there. But parents not looking to send their teen-age/tween kids to Catholic Schools and that can't get into Metro seem to be fairly under served.
ward24 wrote:
Or, enrollment laws statewide may change this year. By the time your kids are in school, they may be able to go to a neighboring county district like MRH, Clayton, Webster, or Affton.


Say what?
justme123 wrote:
OTOH, I've commented before that the big problem is High School. Not every city kid can go to Metro, and if the Catholic High Schools aren't an option (and even if they are, here comes that 20-minute drive problem again) what are the choices? And beyond that, what are the *affordable* HS choices?


With the Catholic high schools, you still have SLUH and St. Mary's in the city for boys, and Rosati-Kain and St. Elizabeth's for girls, not to mention DuBourg and Cardinal Ritter, which are both co-ed. Affordability is another story.

Our old neighbors had two teenage girls who both went to Cor Jesu, IIRC. There was a decent number of teens in North Hampton when we lived there, probably even more in Lindenwood Park and St. Louis Hills.
Thanks for all the input everyone. And please don't think that I'd be "afraid" of sending my kid to a school that's racially diverse. Something that really appealing to me about Kenard is that it offers a racially diverse student body...Something that was sorely lacking for me in Chesterfield. As to the topic at hand, are there any websites you can visit that will show test/MAP scores for the various charter/gifted schools in the city?

Thanks
I am someone who moved back into the city with kids - which my husband questioned as going against the grain. That being said, we paid the money for private school (The College School until grade 8, Crossroads after that). We looked at Metro, and were told we would have better luck winning at the slots on the Casino Queen (pre Lumiere place). Our kids played in the neighborhood, but I would be careful letting children run around unsupervised pretty much anywhere these days. I have heard of heroin deals in Gazebo park by our store in Webster Groves, and have seen kids hanging out there that I would not have wanted my kids to spend time with. Hanging out is not particularly productive in a good way be it the mall, a park or otherwise.

Even though my kids went to Crossroads, which does have financial aid, by the way, we have other friends whose kids went to Metro along with the other parochial or magnet options. These kids went onto graduate from respectable colleges, etc.

Child rearing is a deeply personal thing, and it is important as a parent that you are comfortable with your choices. Being hands on is definitely a better option regardless of your zip code. My kids benefited from living in the city. They loved being able to walk to shops, and places in the neighborhood. They are both grown now, living in Brooklyn (NY, not IL), and street wise as well as comfortable in most any environment.
justme123 wrote:
Agreed - IMHO there are some really good choices in the city for grade schools, both secular and religious. I think part of the "goodness" comes from parents who have actively sought out a good school for their kids and are (naturally?) more involved with school activities.

OTOH, I've commented before that the big problem is High School. Not every city kid can go to Metro, and if the Catholic High Schools aren't an option (and even if they are, here comes that 20-minute drive problem again) what are the choices? And beyond that, what are the *affordable* HS choices?

My hope is that the same group of involved parents who currently have grade-school-age kids will "move up" to being involved parents at the high school level.

I think you nailed it here. I haven't yet researched options for HS so I can't speak to it, but I fear the worst re: few options. I hope more and more STL families will take the time to research, visit and talk to others before they leave, but man, it's not hard to blame them, things seem much easier and less work for the parents in other districts.
My wife and I are looking into school options for our kids as we speak. I think the main thing to keep in mind is that there are good schools IF you are willing to put in the time to investigate them, talk to others who have their kids in school, etc... Unlike the suburbs, you can't count on just sending your kid to the neighborhood school.

FYI, I will be attending this tomorrow to gather more info.

Public Forum on Magnet & Choice School Application Process
Have you thought about homeschooling? I saw this article not that long ago and they made some intersting points.

http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2 ... ation.html
ttricamo wrote:
Alex always brings up the "die in a car wreck" stats, which I agree with. I don't agree, however, these stats are at all applicable to StL City vs. StL County. People in St. Louis City drive as much as people in any of the suburbs.

Couldn't agree more with this. I work and go to church in Creve Coeur. Being one of the few non-Catholics in St Louis (tongue kind of in cheek, but only kind of), we never found a church in the city that suited as when we lived in the city. Eventually we were going to church in Creve Coeur while living in Dogtown. That makes a total of 6 days a week in Creve Coeur. My wife only recently started working in the city, and my son goes to day care in the city. However, he'll be school age soon and will go to public school in Kirkwood. I really did enjoy living in the city, but if I spent a couple of weekends around the house, I may not cross into city limits for weeks at a time. Sure, I do want the city to do great, and there's no doubt that the restaurant options are tons better, and the city has the museums and sports venues, but I just don't have to go to the city often. Unlike an STLToday commenter, I am not wearing this as a badge of honor, its just the truth. When visitors come up, I don't show them around the suburbs - I show them our fair city - downtown, Dogtown, south city, north city, etc.

Regarding the school situation - we had to get out of our house asap in the city due to a rat problem and slumlords who wouldn't keep the house up. I had sent and received several emails from someone with the SLPS talking to them about Magnet options, and had planned on my son attending Wilkinson in Dogtown. We lived close enough to the school that we were pretty sure he would get in...but in a pinch, we had to move, and we wanted to move where we knew we could put my son in school without worries. I didn't have the luxury of spending time figuring out what neighborhood boundaries I had to live in for certain magnet schools, or the luxury of spending time seeking out parents who had kids in those schools. All I knew was we didn't want to end up in a situation where we had to put my son in a questionable school...so we had to make a quick decision, and found a rental in Kirkwood. Kirkwood is super convenient, has a nice, active, and walkable downtown, and has a very low crime rate. I don't regret my decision at all to move to Kirkwood. I completely understand your frustration - and concern - about sending your kid(s) to a good, safe school. If you were to send him or her to a school where they were unsafe, you would feel like a horrible parent and have to try to get out of dodge asap, or find another school and potentially have the same headache. It was a constant struggle with me; "Am I staying in the city for the well being of my family, or because I am selfish and want to live the urban lifestyle?" I'm not saying that anyone who chooses city living is selfish at all, it was just something I personalyl struggled with. Without a doubt the anti-city sentiment that 75% of this region has had an affect on my pscyhe.