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Edwardsville School Board Considering $1.3 Million for Elementary School Parking Lot, Razing Historic Church

Parking is a perceived issue all over the region, even in small towns like Edwardsville IL. The public school district is considering purchasing a historic church, and an adjacent house owned by the church, to create more parking for Columbus elementary school:

The general terms of the proposed sale, which are all subject to approval by both the First Presbyterian Church congregation and the District 7 Board of Education, are that the district will pay First Presbyterian Church $1.3 million from impact fees over a 10-year period. Impact fees are money collected from developers who build homes in Edwardsville and Glen Carbon. The fees can only be used for new construction or the purchase of property.

The other terms of the negotiation are that First Presbyterian Church would have four years to vacate the existing church facility, and the church would be responsible for preparing the ground to leave a clean, level site. (District 7 looks to turn church into parking lot)

The $1.3 million is just for the land, it’ll cost more to actually develop the parking lot.

Columbus Elementary just east of Main Street in downtown Edwardsville, click for map
Columbus Elementary just east of Main Street in downtown Edwardsville, click for map
Graphic showing staff parking (left) and parent parking (right)    Source: Edwardsville Intelligencer, click for story
Graphic showing staff parking (left) and parent parking (right)
Source: Edwardsville Intelligencer, click for story

A friend drove me over to Edwardsville last week so I could check it out in person. What we found is the school has a small parking lot for staff, a large asphalt playground, and has use of a couple of small parking lot owned by the church. No doubt when the church has a weekday event, like a funeral, parking gets tight. Otherwise both appear to have coexisted for decades.

Looking west on College, the church-owned lot on the left wasn't full at 9:15am last Thursday morning
Looking west on College, the church-owned lot on the left wasn’t full at 9:15am last Thursday morning
Back parking lot of school appeared full
Back parking lot of school appeared full
Parking on school grounds on the west side of the building was completely vacant
Parking on school grounds on the west side of the building was completely vacant

I don’t live in Edwardsville, nor am I a parent, so I turned to the Edwardsville School District 7 Parents group on Facebook to see the discussion. There were several postings, here’s some quotes I selected from hundreds:

Feb 26: “Anyone know why Columbus needs a $1.3 million parking lot? More than say, teams, all tenth graders on campus, enough honors classes, a daily middle school band/orchestra program?” — LW

“because there is ZERO parking at the school and the church next door was kind enough to let the school “share” their parking lot. The church is moving and the new owners may not be as accommodating!” — LC 

“We always parked in that lot…..sad to see the church go…I went to preschool in that church” — JG

“The church isn’t moving unless the building is purchased. We’ve always worked with the district for parking and that’s not a big deal. My ‘big deal’ is a $1.3 million parking lot. I have a 7th grader who can’t have team teaching or have band every day because there’s no money, a junior who spent 40 minute a day last year being transported off campus because there weren’t enough classrooms, and it makes no sense financially. If there’s money to buy property and or build something with, maybe an addition to the high school would be a goal to look toward.” — LW

Feb 26: “Is it true that the Presbyterian Church property was assessed at $750,000? If so, wouldn’t that lend one to believe that the tax payers are indeed paying for demolition?” — TM

It appears the parents in the district are split; some say the parking situation is poor, while others say parking has always been bad but the district has higher priorities. I do know the school & church have managed to share parking in the area for years but it the church is razed much of the parking will sit empty each day.

This is all possible because some members of the dwindling congregation at the First Presbyterian Church of Edwardsville want to build a new church nearly 4 miles away. This isn’t new, they bought 28+ acres of farmland in January 2000, paying $390,000. In November 2006 I posted how they voted to build on the farmland.

The future church location is on the far east edge of town, away from downtown and the new sprawl shopping.
The future church location is on the far east edge of town, away from downtown Edwardsville and their new shopping area. Click image to view map.
The church hopes to sell 20 acres to partially  fund the new building on the remaining land
The church hopes to sell 20 acres to partially fund the new building on the remaining land
First Presbyterian was founded in 1819, moved to this site in 1885. The current building was dedicated on the same site in 1924.
First Presbyterian was founded in 1819, moved to this site in 1885. The current building was dedicated on the same site in 1924.

Attendance at the church has reportedly dropped in the 7 years since voting to proceed with the plan to build a new church.  I can see the church agreeing to sell  — but in four years still not having a new building ready. Then what? Also, does the school district not have more pressing building needs?

— Steve Patterson

 

The Central Library Reopened One Year Ago

December 9, 2013 Downtown, Education, Featured 3 Comments

One  year ago our central library reopened after receiving a much-needed renovation:

The library closed almost three years ago for a $70-million renovation. The results of that work are now open to the public, and the 190,000-square-foot building is the most gorgeous — and usable — library I have ever seen.

The 1912 Beaux Arts building, which takes a full city block, was originally designed by Cass Gilbert, who also designed the U.S. Supreme Court. Andrew Carnegie provided the seed money — part of his campaign to build 1,600 libraries in America — and taxpayers provided the rest. (Washington Post)

The results were impressive, readers thought the library renovation was a good investment.

Main facade of the Central Library
Main facade of the Central Library
To my knowledge, the planned cafe space doesn't have an operator.
To my knowledge, the planned cafe space doesn’t have an operator.

I haven’t spent as much time in the library as I thought I would, but I’m still impressed by the exterior lighting as I pass by it several nights per week. I need to see if anyone is operating the cafe inside, that would get me in the door more often. My fiancee is an avid reader, he’s used the library far more than I have.  In June I posted how the Central Library after hours book return is for motorists, not pedestrians.

What has been your experience over the last year?

— Steve Patterson

 

Readers: Schools Should Be Forced To Take Students From Unaccredited Districts

School district boundaries are arbitrary, but many act like they’re etched in stone. Thankfully slightly more than half the readers who voted in the unscientific poll last week are ok with forcing districts to take students from unaccredited districts:

Q: Should schools be forced to take students from unaccredited districts?

  • Yes, education is that important 38 [54.29%]
  • No, it isn’t fair to taxpayers and students 32 [45.71%]

This is the opposite of the results from the original poll on the St. Louis Business Journal where only 37% voted yes.

That said, the process this year was anything but ideal. Hopefully state & local leaders can find ways to ensure every child gets a good public education.

— Steve Patterson

 

Poll: Should schools be forced to take students from unaccredited districts?

The poll this week is an exact duplicate of a poll run by the St. Louis Business Journal in June:

Should schools be forced to take students from unaccredited districts?

  • Yes, education is that important
  • No, it isn’t fair to taxpayers and students

I couldn’t come up with any better phrasing, so it’ll have to do.

STLSPJ
Left to right: Sharon Reed (KMOV), Eric Knost, Mehlville superintendent, Ty McNichols, Normandy superintendent, and moderator from St. Louis Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists

Unaccredited schools are now paying overcrowded schools to accept transfer students. The transfer process was chaotic. Is this really the best we can do as a region?

The poll is in the right sidebar for a week.

— Steve Patterson

 

New Downtown Elementary School Open House Saturday August 10th 10AM-Noon

August 9, 2013 Downtown, Education, Featured Comments Off on New Downtown Elementary School Open House Saturday August 10th 10AM-Noon

For a couple of years now a small group of parents have been working to open a new charter school: Lafayette Preparatory Academy:

Yesterday students return to the school from time outdoors
Students returning to the school from time outdoors

We start with the conviction that every child, at-risk or otherwise, has the right to a high-quality education. We follow it with the vision that if we provide the families living in the Urban Core and surrounding neighborhoods of St. Louis that education, it will not only benefit them individually, but contribute to what is increasingly becoming the revitalization of downtown St. Louis.

Subscribe to the upcoming Newsletters or join the conversation and stay up-to-date on Facebook and Twitter

I first met with organizers in the Fall of 2011, offering some help with social media. At that time they described a their desire to stay in St. Louis, but also make sure their young kids get a quality education.

This first year (2013-2014) the school offers kindergarten, 1st grade, and 2nd grade. Their original plan was to add a grade level each year through high school graduation. The school is opening in leased space in the office wing attached to Christ Church Cathedral. The community is invited to an open house tomorrow morning:

Come one, come all … LPA is ready to open and wants to share with you all of the hard work put in by the many volunteers and families committed to bringing an excellent elementary school to support the growth in Downtown St. Louis. We invite you to come see what all the hype is about. At the Open House, you will see the changes made in our facility and learn more about our college prep program. (source

The open house is 10am-noon Saturday August 10th at 1210 Locust (entrance off alley on east side).

— Steve Patterson

 

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