MRH faces problems of being a ‘destination district’

Maplewood Richmond Heights School District has become a destination district, superintendent Karen Hall said Wednesday night in a town hall meeting at the high school. Waves of larger and larger classes are forcing the administration to figure out where they’ll all go.

Around a dozen MRH parents heard board members, principals and teachers talk about the problem, then the parents asked questions and suggested solutions. Similar meetings have been held at the early childhood center and the elementary school.

Board president Francis Chmelir said the board has brought in architects and designers to look at long and short-term solutions.

“Parents are sticking with the district from one building to the next, which is fantastic, but it also creates a wave that really isn’t going to slow down or stop,” he said.

Hall said the problem is bigger than the 42 St. Louis transfer students, who are evenly distributed throughout the district.

Elementary school principal Jason Adams said the largest wave of students is in the second and third grades, which have six sections (classes) in each grade. Fourth grade has five sections and fifth and sixth grades each has four sections of students. A parent said the preschool has a waiting list.

This year the middle school has loaned two classrooms to the high school, but next year middle school enrollment is projected to grow from 142 to 170, so they’ll need the space.

The gym often has four classes going at a time, and locker rooms have only one shower each. The weight room is an old garage without heating or AC.

Board member Nelson Mitten said money to build can come from the already-tight operating budget or a bond, but because of previously-passed bonds, the district is limited to around $4 million from that source. He also said part of the problem is that the district is land-locked.

Parents floated ideas such as alternative uses of spaces, such as using the common area in the cafeteria, turning the administrative offices into classrooms or even adding a second floor to the currently 2-story tall elementary school library.

The Long-Range Facilities Planning Committee will meet in the next few months to consider short-range and long-term range solutions.
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3 thoughts on “MRH faces problems of being a ‘destination district’

  1. The district might consider the possibility of purchasing more homes in the area immediately adjacent to the high school, and remodeling to use as “centers”. Home Economics comes immediately to mind ( Do we even teach Home Ec. anymore? HA), but other cluster studies would also work well, such as Foreign Languages or Creative Arts. I have an idea that the $4 million bond amount would go a lot farther this way than for new construction. They could begin to plan long term, thinking towards a “community” type school, rather than a single, contained high school building….more like a small-scale college campus! This may not be feasible for a variety of reasons, but I’m trying to think outside the box!

    I’m pleased to know that this is the type of “problems” we’re facing! It speaks well of what’s being accomplished! Good job, and thanks, to our teachers, administrators, board members, and community members!

    • This is a great suggestion, Jill. I love the idea of renovating and maintaining some of the older homes in that neighborhood, instead of tearing more buildings down to build new. The kids might even be able to help with the renovations (possibly gathering community service hours?)