ST. LOUIS - Time is running out - that's the message for parents
and guardians of more than 1,000 students who attended the now-
shuttered Imagine schools and have yet to register for the new
With the first day of school about a month away, administrators
at St. Louis Public Schools, charter schools and the transition
office are trying to account for hundreds of students from six
schools that the Missouri Board of Education closed. Officials
estimate nearly a third of students from Imagine have not enrolled
in schools for 2012-13.
They'll spend the next few weeks trying to track them down,
hanging signs and leaving postcards at groceries, parks and hair
salons in neighborhoods surrounding the buildings with information
about finding a new school.
"We're telling them it's time to make a decision," said Gwen
Westbrooks, the state's transition coordinator for Imagine students.
Exactly how many students will show up when classes begin is
unknown. Even so, St. Louis Public Schools is preparing for their
arrival, including signing a $688,500 annual lease on a building for
Imagine students, hiring 90 teachers and two dozen other staff.
The Imagine Schools were operated by a for-profit charter school
management company based in Virginia. After years of questionable
finances and academic failure, the Missouri Board of Education voted
to close Imagine's six St. Louis schools in what has been called the
largest charter shutdown in the country. Before the closures began,
the schools had nearly 3,800 pupils and about 280 staff. Officials
set out to find a new school for every child in the four months
between the decision to close and the first day of the school year.
"It's as if an entire school district ... is being created and
prepared for," said Rick Sullivan, chairman of the district's
Special Administrative Board in a meeting this week updating
officials on plans for the Imagine students.
The district is opening one of the former Imagine schools near
Chouteau and Spring avenues specifically for Imagine students -
about 725 in elementary and 263 in middle school.
The rent is less than a third of the what it was under Imagine -
$2.4 million in 2009-10. The lease is for one year from Schoolhouse
Finance, a subsidiary of Imagine Schools, according to a copy of the
Superintendent Kelvin Adams said it is more affordable for the
district to lease the building rather than reopen one of the
"This building is basically a building we could walk into," Adams
said. "We could not get a building ready as quickly as we would have
High school students from Imagine can go to what has been named
College Preparatory High School at Madison, a school district
building that housed alternative education students last year. …