By Kasey Joyce
St. Louis (KSDK) - Eight hundred people packed the Contemporary Art Museum Thursday night to talk about how to make St. Louis a better place. It's part of an idea called Good Ideas for Cities. They're passionate people from all walks of life and they had a lot to say about the city. They covered seven big problems facing the city of St. Louis, one of the biggest is the schools.
So where do you start to fix the city schools?
A team from Good Ideas for Cities decided to start at the city's high schools. According to St. Louis Public Schools, only about 60 percent of students graduate.
"It was difficult to dissect the problem, because we kept wanting to tackle all of the elements that are problematic to the public school system," said team member Gina Martinez.
There were a lot of issues, so they narrowed them down to two.
Issue number one is engagement. How do you get students to care about going to school and then, how do you get them to graduate?
The team found that some of the traditional classes just don't have a lot of real world applications for St. Louis city students, so there has to be a better way to reach them. One way might be to offer vocational classes like carpentry or plumbing.
Issue number two is needs. Some of the students' needs at home are just not being met.
"The students want to be in school, they want to be engaged, they want to graduate, it's just that they have so much stuff that they can't be fully present in school at that time," said Rachelle Morgan, who works at Shearwater High School, a charter school designed to help students return to high school.
It's tough to make it to class if you're homeless, pregnant, can't find someone to watch your kids, or have other issues going on at home.
One solution, according to a team from good ideas for cities, may actually be in abandoned buildings.
The idea is to use those buildings to teach those vocational skills. And in the process, they can turn those vacant buildings into community centers that not meet the needs of students, but also improve the neighborhoods.
"It would be both a way to keep the students in school and get them engaged in the process and addressing some of those basic needs, by offering social services," said team member Daniel Waxler.
It may be just one idea, but the key movers and shakers in the city are taking notes and hoping that there's something they can take away from this good idea.
And the good ideas weren't just flowing in that meeting. This story took on a life of its own on Twitter tonight, with the hashtag #goodideasSTL, with people putting out their thoughts minute by minute. So if you want in on the action, go to Twitter.