ST. LOUIS — "We will! We must! We can!" shouted several dozen St. Louis parents during a protest outside the Old Courthouse downtown Wednesday night.
The parents and grandparents united for one purpose: to show that they do care about the education their kids are receiving from St. Louis Public Schools.
"I've always worked with my son and believed that he needed extra help," said Davida Cooks.
Cooks has a ninth-grader in the school district with special needs.
"After moving him from school to school, I still could not find a school that would meet his needs," Cooks said.
"Our children are failing in schools, period. Charter schools. St. Louis Public Schools," said Krystal Barnett, the Executive Director of Bridge 2 Hope.
Barnett said according to the Department of Secondary Education in 2019, 88% of students in St. Louis Public Schools could not read on their grade levels.
What's more, she said throughout the COVID-19 crisis, scores of boys and girls have struggled in their classrooms.
"We know that children have suffered with virtual learning during the digital divide and from not having access to opportunities even in their homes. So, when the pandemic came along, it just exacerbated it for students already behind," added Barnett.
The parents, grandparents and education advocates are now pleading to St. Louis Public Schools to use a portion of $60 million in federal funds from the American Rescue Plan to implement more effective learning plans for city students.
"They think we don't care, but we do care about our kids," said Sakiesha Mays, who has two children in the SLPS district.
"Our goal is to build a bridge so that parents know their roles, responsibility and accountability, teachers have theirs and together we'll build a strong foundation for the students," Barnett said.
A spokesperson for St. Louis Public Schools said so far the district has not received a proposal from Bridge 2 Hope, so it's not commenting at this time.
The group hopes to meet with school leaders in the coming weeks.
It also plans to hold another community awareness event outside the St. Louis Public Schools Office at 801 North 11th St. on April 28.
That event is scheduled to run from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.