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Poll: $70 Million To Renovate The Central Library A Good Investment?

Next month the Central Library will reopen after being closed for nearly two and a half years:

Central Library is in the midst of a $70 million dollar restoration and renovation. Over four million books and other items were moved out of the building for safekeeping and reorganization before this enormous project could begin. Central Library will reopen late in 2012 – a century after it first opened to the public – as a great research and community library for the 21st century. (slpl,org)

It reopens to the public on Sunday December 9, 2012.

ABOVE: Main facade of the Central Library, November 17, 2012

From July 2010:

The city of St. Louis closed on the sale of $65 million in bonds June 30, clearing the way for construction on the nearly century-old facility to begin later this summer. (St. Louis Business Journal)

The remaining funds were raised privately through the library foundation. The new library will be quite different than what generations have known, the old central stack area behind the scenes no longer has the glass walkways and administrative offices moved to a newer building to the west, freeing up more public space.

A few Central Library facts:

  • Opened: January 6, 1912
  • Architect: Cass Gilbert 
  • Carnegie grant: May 12, 1901

With Carnegie’s $1,000,000 grant St. Louis built seven libraries — six branches and the central (source). I read somewhere Carnegie told other cities to not do like St. Louis did — putting a large percentage in one building. Today some might say $65 million in public bonds might have been better spent if spread around to the many infrastructure needs of the city. Others say such an institution is critical to our future.

The poll question this week asks if this was a good investment? The poll is in the upper right sidebar.

– Steve Patterson

Readers: Would Send Kid To Best High School In Missouri Even Though It’s In the St. Louis Public School System

June 13, 2012 Education, Featured 3 Comments
ABOVE: Missouri's top high school, Metro Academic & Classical High School at 4015 McPherson in the City of St. Louis

Metro Academic & Classical High School in the St. Louis Pubic School system is the top high school in the state (prior post)! It’s student body is also selected from the best in the city, not just any kid can attend. Of course, this is a major factor in producing the outstanding results.

The poll results and the comments varied widely, as one might expect:

Q: Assume You Have Kids: Would You Send Your Kid To The Top High School In The Region/Missouri If You Could? BTW: It’s Metro Academic and Classical High School

  1. Sure, no problem 39 [42.39%]
  2. No way, it’s part of St. Louis Public Schools 14 [15.22%]
  3. Yes, that’s where they go! 13 [14.13%]
  4. Maybe 12 [13.04%]
  5. Other: 8 [8.7%]
  6. Unsure/no opinion 6 [6.52%]

The #1 & #3 answers represent for than half those that took the poll. The “other” answers were:

  1. Private
  2. Yes, that’s his alma mater
  3. of course, but why such success at this location and not others?always wondered?
  4. They would go to the closest High School to the house
  5. Loaded poll alert! Please make them more interesting in the future.
  6. If I had kids they would go there.
  7. Only sending kids to private schools
  8. onlt if I couldn’t afford to send them to one of our great catholic schools

The purpose of the poll was to spark some discussion around education, which it did.

- Steve Patterson

Poll: Would You Send Your Kid To The Top High School In The Region/State If You Could?

Fourteen high schools in Missouri made Newsweek’s list of Top 1,000 High Schools for 2012. All but one were in the St. Louis metropolitan area. No Metro East high school made the list.

To generate the overall rankings, we factored in six criteria. Three make up 75 percent of the overall score—the four-year graduation rate, college-acceptance rate, and number of AP and other high-level exams given per student. Average SAT/ACT scores and AP/college-level test scores count for another 10 percent each, and the number of AP courses offered per student counts for the final 5 percent. Because most of these data aren’t available from a central source, we collected it by reaching out directly to high-school administrators directly. 15,000 were contacted, and 2300 responded.

Below is a list of all 14 Missouri high schools on the list and where they ranked. The first two listed earned spots in the Top 20 High Schools in the Midwest.

125) Metro Academic and Classical High School, St. Louis, MO

ABOVE: Missouri's top high school, Metro Academic & Classical High School at 4015 McPherson in the City of St. Louis
  • Graduation rate: 100%
  • Percent of college-bound graduates: 100
  • Number of AP/IB tests per student: 0.7
  • Average graduate SAT score: n/a
  • Average graduate ACT score: 26.9
  • Average student AP score: 2.6

129) Clayton High School, Clayton, MO

  • Graduation rate: 100%
  • Percent of college-bound graduates: 95
  • Number of AP/IB tests per student: 0.6
  • Average graduate SAT score: 2016
  • Average graduate ACT score: 25.8
  • Average student AP score: 4.1

181) Lincoln College Prep, Kansas City

188) Ladue Horton Watkins, Ladue

497) Rockwood Summit, Fenton

508) Lafayette, Wildwood

585) Marquette, Chesterfield

663) Lindbergh, St. Louis County

676) Eureka, Eureka

801) Parkway West, Ballwin

871) Parkway Central, Chesterfield

906) Kirkwood, Kirkwood

934) Parkway South, Manchester

947) Parkway North

The poll question this week asks you to assume you have kids, then answer if you’d send them to the best high school in the state if you could.

- Steve Patterson

Glad At Least A Few Blocks Of Grand Were Saved From Demolition

I was in the Grand Center part of Midtown Thursday night. Grand Center is centered on a too short 3-4 block stretch of North Grand that was not razed for urban renewal to the north of Delmar or grass south of Olive. Many buildings stood vacant for years, some remain vacant today. One recently occupied is the former headquarters of Carter Carburetor at 711 North Grand.

ABOVE: Entrance to the Grand Center Arts Academy

The Grand Center Arts Academy is “a charter school for visual and performing arts.”  The school moved into the building last year. I’m grateful buildings like this weren’t razed by short sided people so it could contribute to the streetscape along Grand and provide comfort to me as I waited on Delmar for the bus home. Hopefully I’ll get  a tour of the inside soon.

 - Steve Patterson

Raising Urban Kids

One of the great things about downtown’s Citygarden is I almost always seen someone I know when I pass through.

ABOVE: A friend plays ball with his young son as another friend watches.

Last Sunday was no exception, I stopped to talk to two friends and the young son of one friend. It seems like just last week when his son was in a tiny infant, now he’s playing ball. How’d that happen so quick? Downtown has a growing number of young kids being raised in the region’s most urban area. As you might expect schools and education is a concern for these parents. Rather than immediately flee the suburbs or exurbs a growing number of urban parents expect they can continue the walkable urban lifestyle they love while ensuring their kids get a good education as well as being exposed to a broad range of people.

These kids won’t be sheltered, they’ll know how to walk to the store alone when their older, they won’t be shocked when their out with friends in college and they spot a homeless person. The idea of a cleanup project won’t be a foreign concept either.

- Steve Patterson

New Mission & Neighborhood for Ittner’s Henry School

Last year’s redistricting meant I was now in the 5th ward, rather than the 6th. As such my polling place for voting changed from the senior apartment building on Olive west of Jefferson to Patrick Henry Elementary on North 10th St.

ABOVE: Henry Elementary at 1220 N. 10th, click image to view in Google Maps

It’s official name is now Patrick Henry Downtown Academy:

Nestled in the heart of downtown St. Louis, Patrick Henry Downtown Academy, located at 1220 N. 10th Street, offers a tuition-free world-class urban educational experience for children grades Pre-K-6th. We are beginning the first phase in the implementation of a GREEN School Model. We will emphasize ecological sustainability, environmental health, nutrition, personal responsibility, leadership and a comprehensive, high-quality academic program.

Patrick Henry Downtown Academy will serve as a unique springboard for students who will be at the forefront of the industries and disciplines of the 21st Century. There will be an emphasis on the environmental sciences, energy alternatives and conservation, recycling, organic gardening and the food sciences, and the emerging “green” economy, students will focus on developing the math, science, writing and “hands-on” skills that will make them successful leaders to make a difference in improving the environment for humanity. Our goal is to be the first urban GREEN Model Pilot School in the country! (Saint Louis Public Schools).

The Henry school is one of many designed by architect William B. Ittner (Landmarks Association, Wikipedia). Voters entered through a basement entry to get to the small gym so the areas I saw weren’t grand spaces designed by Ittner. They were nice and clean and students going from class to class were well behaved. School staff were clearly in charge of the students. Those working the polls were helpful.

Last November I voted absentee but I’m glad I went in person on Tuesday, even though I had to walk down numerous steps. The area to the east was the Cochran Gardens high-rise public housing projects. Cochran has been replaced by Cambridge Heights, a mixed income neighborhood. Now that construction is nearly complete I’ll be visiting and posting about the changes, including pictures of the high-rise buildings before they were razed.

- Steve Patterson

BWorks Moves Worthy Programs to New Soulard Location

Since 1988, BWorks has worked with youth in St. Louis.

ABOVE: BWorks' new home in a historic Soulard building

The organization recently moved from a cramped storefront in the Shaw neighborhood to a much larger space in Soulard:

St. Louis BWorks was built on the idea that everyone deserves the chance to be more and to gain the skills they need to pursue their dreams. We believe that “at-risk” children — or any young people for that matter — can thrive when they have the opportunity to challenge their abilities in a safe, supportive environment. (full mission & history)

Originally the only program was St. Louis Bicycle Works where kids could learn to repair and maintain a bike. Later St. Louis Byte Works was added where kids learned computer skills and they could earn a reconditioned computer.

St. Louis Book Works was founded in 2011 to promote verbal, visual and cultural literacy through creative expression. Young people in the program work with volunteer editors to write and and illustrate their own books.

As the programs offered grew, so did their space requirements. BWorks outgrew their old space long ago.

ABOVE: Reconditioned bicycles await new owners after completing the St. Louis Bicycle Works program
ABOVE: St. Louis Book Works classroom space
ABOVE: Computer lab at St. Louis Byte Works
ABOVE: Shop area where donated computers are refurbished
ABOVE: Shop area where bikes are reconditioned

Each year St. Louis Bicycle Works sponsors Cranksgiving in St. Louis:

“Want to be a part of the biggest food collection ride in the country? Join us at Schlafly Bottleworks on 11/6 for a bike ride at 10 A.M. (5, 10 or 25 mile courses) and get some food for Food Outreach.

 2010 had over 650 riders collecting over 6000 food items for Food Outreach making it the largest Cranksgiving in the country. Lets keep this record in St.louis! Join us this year at a even better event.”

BWorks is looking for volunteers and contributions. Click here to learn how to get involved. The reuse of the building is extraordinary.

- Steve Patterson

Readers: Imagine’s St. Louis Charter Schools Need to Close

October 5, 2011 Education 16 Comments
ABOVE: The Imagine school at Chouteau & Spring

Nearly two-thirds of the readers that voted in the poll last week think charter schools operated by Imagine Schools, Inc need to close:

Q: Should Imagine’s Charter Schools in St. Louis Close?

  1. Yes 55 [62.5%]
  2. No 15 [17.05%]
  3. Maybe 6 [6.82%]
  4. Unsure/No Opinion 7 [7.95%]
  5. Other: 5 [5.68%]

The five other answers were:

  1. If they are not getting results, shutter them. Haven’t followed the issu too cl
  2. How about expelling the students who don’t care to be taught/can’t act properly?
  3. some should
  4. don’t know enough to make an educated choice
  5. The entire charter school system in Saint Louis needs to be reevalualed.


- Steve Patterson

Poll: Should Imagine’s Charter Schools in St. Louis Close?

September 25, 2011 Education, Featured, Weekly Poll 16 Comments
ABOVE: The Imagine school at Chouteau & Spring

Controversy about poor performing schools was recently focused on charter schools, specifically six operated by Imagine Schools, Inc:

Mayor Francis Slay called for the closure of Imagine charter schools in St. Louis on Thursday, for the first time singling out the poorest-performing charters in the city.


Charter schools are public schools that operate independently of traditional school systems. In Missouri, they’re allowed only in St. Louis and Kansas City as alternatives to struggling school districts.

The Virginia-based Imagine Schools Inc., the largest charter school operator in the country, has six school in St. Louis. They ranked at the bottom among charter schools and most St. Louis Public Schools on the 2011 Missouri Assessment Program. (STLtoday)

Seems unusual to have a mayor calling for school closures. The Missouri Charter Public School Association is also calling for their closure:

MCPSA believes the Imagine Schools’ performance trends reflect most poorly on the management company, Imagine Schools Inc. and is not a condemnation of the teachers and staff within the schools. Often a significant issue leading to such poor academic performance is a lack of resources and supports available to the teachers and staff by their employer. Another issue, often, is charter public school governing boards not being able to execute the oversight authority they are statutorily entitled as the management company has contractually assumed that authority. (Beacon)

So what do you think? The poll is in the right sidebar.

- Steve Patterson

Poll: Missouri Back-to-School Sales Tax Holiday a Good Idea?

Missouri’s Back-t0-School Sales Tax Holiday is August 5-7:

During this time, Missourians won’t have to pay the state’s 4.225 percent sales tax on certain purchases made in the state. Alana Barragán-Scott, director of the Missouri Department of Revenue, said the tax break will help those making big purchases the most. (Source)

Our state government even produced a lame video to promote the event:


From the Missouri Back-to-School Sales Tax Holiday page:

Certain back-to-school purchases, such as clothing, school supplies, computers, and other items as defined by the statute, are exempt from sales tax for this time period only.

The sales tax holiday applies to state and local sales taxes when a local jurisdiction chooses to participate in the holiday. However, local jurisdictions can choose to not participate in the holiday if they enact an ordinance to not participate and notify the department 45 days prior to the sales tax holiday. If the jurisdiction had previously enacted an ordinance to not participate in the holiday and later decided to participate, it must enact a new ordinance to participate and notify the department 45 days prior to the sales tax holiday.

If one or all of your local taxing jurisdictions are not participating in the sales tax holiday, the state’s portion of the tax rate (4.225%) will remain exempt for the sale of qualifying sales tax holiday items.

The sales tax exemption is limited to:

  • Clothing – any article having a taxable value of $100 or less
  • School supplies – not to exceed $50 per purchase
  • Computer software – taxable value of $350 or less
  • Personal computers – not to exceed $3,500
  • Computer peripheral devices – not to exceed $3,500

Thankfully the site details how these items are defined:

Section 144.049, RSMo, defines items exempt during the sales tax holiday as:

“Clothing” – any article of wearing apparel, including footwear, intended to be worn on or about the human body. The term shall include but not be limited to cloth and other material used to make school uniforms or other school clothing. Items normally sold in pairs shall not be separated to qualify for the exemption. The term shall not include watches, watchbands, jewelry, handbags, handkerchiefs, umbrellas, scarves, ties, headbands, or belt buckles.

“School supplies” – any item normally used by students in a standard classroom for educational purposes, including but not limited to, textbooks, notebooks, paper, writing instruments, crayons, art supplies, rulers, book bags, backpacks, handheld calculators, chalk, maps, and globes. The term shall not include watches, radios, CD players, headphones, sporting equipment, portable or desktop telephones, copiers or other office equipment, furniture, or fixtures. School supplies shall also include computer software having a taxable value of three hundred fifty dollars or less.

“Personal computers” – a laptop, desktop, or tower computer system which consists of a central processing unit, random access memory, a storage drive, a display monitor, and a keyboard and devices designed for use in conjunction with a personal computer, such as a disk drive, memory module, compact disk drive, daughterboard, digitalizer, microphone, modem, motherboard, mouse, multimedia speaker, printer, scanner, single-user hardware, single-user operating system, soundcard, or video card.

The poll question this week seeks to find out what readers think of this annual event. The poll is located in the upper right corner of the blog.

- Steve Patterson


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