Class struggle • For years, Kennard Classical Junior Academy has served as an academic lifeboat within the struggling St. Louis Public Schools, attracting city parents who might otherwise choose a private school or migrate to the suburbs. The district has tried to make its other magnet schools as desirable as Kennard, McKinley middle and Metro High, but has largely failed. During the last two years, St. Louis Public Schools has engaged in an ambitious effort to transform Mallinckrodt Academy, which was once listed for closure, into a top-tier magnet school serving gifted children. Now, with one year of that program complete, moms and dads at Mallinckrodt are praising their child’s progress in reading and writing and touting its principal and parent-teacher organization.
Game on • Heading into the National League Division Series, the Cardinals were far from favorites. Not to worry, said Bernie Miklasz, the Cards play best as underdogs anyway. Now, as we head into Game 3, the series is tied, 1-1.
No shore thing • In the Lake of the Ozarks, proximity to the water has gone from a selling point to a liability for some homeowners. Roy and Karen Walker of Columbia, Ill., are among thousands of property owners along the lake now stuck in legal limbo after being notified that all or part of their homes, decks, gazebos and patios were built on land that belongs to Ameren Missouri’s Bagnell Dam and Osage hydroelectric project. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which regulates the lake, dam and hydroelectric plant, has issued an order that all so-called nonconforming structures must be removed.
Chow, baby • Eight St. Louis elementary schools are following a national made-from-scratch lunch trend. The result is better tasting food with more nutrients and fewer preservatives, calories, sodium, sugar and fat. The kids like the old-school approach: “There was always food on the floor. Now the floors are clean,” said Lexington Elementary School Principal Barbara Anderson. “They’re eating the food. It’s not on the floor; it’s in their tummies.”
Lockdown continues • St. Charles High School was locked down about 9:15 this morning because of a threatening note, officials said. The lockdown is still in place, and police are searching the school room-by-room. St. Charles School District superintendent Randal Charles said students are being taken to the football field, passing through metal detectors as they evacuate. The district is posting updates and answering parents’ questions on its Facebook page.
Update: The lockdown was lifted at 1:45 p.m. No threat was found.
Check it out • After two months of controversy, Republic school district students can once again check out “Slaughterhouse-Five” by Kurt Vonnegut. Sort of. Parents will be allowed to check out challenged books, including “Slaughterhouse-Five” and Sarah Ockler’s “Twenty Boy Summer,” from a secure section of the school library. In August, the Vonnegut library gave away 150 copies of “Slaughterhouse-Five” to Republic high school students.
Do the math — and science • Mary Institute and St. Louis Country Day School is using its biggest charitable gift on record, $21.5 million, to construct a building focused on hands-on learning in science, technology, engineering and math. The donation is from MICDS alumni James S. McDonnell III and his wife, Elizabeth Hall McDonnell, and the JSM Charitable Trust.
Turning a page • Roughly 330 Grandview High School students will use Android-powered Kyros Coby tablets in place of textbooks this year. Many school districts are incorporating laptops and tablets in classrooms, but Grandview is paving the way for ditching paper textbooks in favor of digital tools and allowing students to take the tablets home. The tablets will be used to take tests, do homework and complete assigned readings using applications and programs such as Moodle, a free online classroom. The tablets also will contain free online textbooks and digital copies of textbooks. An Internet filter blocks many sites, including pornography and Facebook.
The Joplin Way • When the schools in Joplin were reduced to rubble in the deadly tornado three months ago, district leaders made a promise that seemed like a long shot: The new school year would start on time. But Wednesday, right on schedule, students were reunited for the first day of school, streaming into makeshift buildings that replaced the nine schools damaged or destroyed by the tornado and marking the end of a difficult summer.
Full speed ahead • Over the past three decades, public schools across the nation have gradually moved from half-day kindergarten to a complete day of classes for young students. Full-day kindergarten is now the standard for three-fourths of young children nationwide, a tripling in enrollment that comes in response to research extolling the merits of the extra instruction. On Tuesday, the Parkway School District joined that trend. Now all kindergartners in the district will be offered a free full day of classes. Previously, parents who wanted more than a half-day had to pay for it.
What I did last summer … • A study conducted by the RAND Corp. and released in June shows that the average student starts school a month behind where they were before summer break. The effects are greater in certain subjects, such as math, and among low-income students. To minimize the “summer slide,” many educators assign summer homework.
Schooled in shopping • This is the eighth year Missouri has held a special holiday in which it withholds the state sales tax of 4.225 percent on certain qualifying back-to-school items. Local municipalities can — and often do — opt out of the holiday, so local taxes may still be collected depending on where you shop. On Friday, many parking lots were more crowded than normal. A line for the Apple store stretched a ways through the St. Louis Galleria in the morning.
Greatest show in Canton • Marshall Faulk was on his best behavior Friday afternoon. And with his enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame just a day away, why shouldn’t he be? Nonetheless, when Faulk was asked if he’d started working on his acceptance speech, he looked at the questioner as if he had three heads. “That’s not even a question I can answer,” Faulk said. “If you even know me, that speech has been done a l-o-o-o-ng time ago.”
Nice while it lasted • The Francis Howell School District isn’t having year-round elementary school for the first time since 1969. So, this year’s switch to a modified year-round schedule meant the first day of school was today.
Social not-work • A new Missouri law aimed at preventing sexual abuse of students by their teachers appears to prohibit private communication between a teacher and a student. It may make it illegal for teachers to have students as friends on Facebook and other social media platforms. The law goes into effect on Aug. 28, leaving school officials and teachers scrambling to try to figure out just how broad it is. Does it cover email? Twitter? Can teachers answer a student’s text message about a homework assignment? Can coaches use text messages to alert their teams about changes in practice times?