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Some parents upset SLPS is turning Dunbar Elementary into virtual school

They feel this move hurts the fabric of the neighborhood. SLPS say they reviewed all the data and parent feedback before making this decision.

ST. LOUIS — A group of Saint Louis Public School parents are upset that the district is transforming Dunbar Elementary School into a virtual school.

Parents started the protest at the school, then made their way to SLPS headquarters downtown.

“This will hurt them,” Regina Belton said. “Closing Dunbar down will hurt them.”

Belton said her three grandchildren had to pivot during the pandemic to learn from home. Although they maintained their good grades, she fears the lack of face-to-face learning is holding the children back.

“They say it takes a village to raise these children, but parts of our village keep getting picked at and taken out,” Belton said. “What chance do they have? And they want to go all-virtual?”

The district responded: “We recognize that closing a school can be emotional for the community. However, we are confident that the process followed to make this decision — which included a series of public forums to gather feedback and consultation with all stakeholders — was handled carefully and appropriately. Our superintendent made his recommendations based on the best available data, and the board of education took all information into account when making its decision.”

Activist Gwendolyn Cogshell has concerns about the lack of data and research done on virtual learning.

“Why are we going virtual?” Cogshell said. “We are going backwards. The mayor has opened the city. It's time for the school board to sit down and discuss virtual learning.”

Credit: David Mueth

If closed, students will have to travel farther to learn. Big picture, Cogshell and Belton fear this is the first sign of many that the neighborhood is going down a bad path.

“I see the neighborhood trying to come up,” Belton said. “But how is it going to come up with all the empty buildings and school closings?”

Parents said this news is disheartening because they felt things are just beginning to turn around in the community.


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