SLPS approves plan to turn Sumner into art school

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ST. LOUIS — Desperation has been replaced with a sense of hope that Sumner High School will succeed in a major new effort.

The St. Louis Public School District voted Tuesday on a plan that will save Sumner for at least the next three years.

Under the new plan, Sumner will be converted into a school for the arts and activism, with the help of community partners such as the St. Louis Black Rep, the St. Louis Shakespeare Festival and the Center of Creative Arts ( COCA). They devote time, talent and money to make Sumner a great success.

“There’s mountains of research showing that art experience, art exposure, enriched arts drive GPA, attendance, discipline citations, interest in college,” Tom said. Ridgely, Artistic Director Producer of the St. Louis Shakespeare Festival.

Former students and residents who live near Sumner were pleased that the school is not closing for now.

“I feel like the teachers here were very engaged,” said Sumner graduate Tanita Walker. “I feel like, yes, Sumner is a good school to keep open.”

The plan would aim for the building to be designated as a national monument by 2024.

“It’s a good thing they keep this school open,” said Fred Moore, who lives nearby.

St. Louis Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Kelvin Adams has been told that neighborhood groups and other civic organizations are dedicated to getting involved with Sumner.

“I think it’s really a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for these kids and it also engages the community in a way that they’ve never been engaged before,” Adams said.

Sumner was the first black high school west of the Mississippi River and counts famous figures like Chuck Berry and Tina Turner among its alumni.

The school is important for the La Ville district.

“It is essential that we try to develop housing in the community and we want our children to attend school in the same community that they live,” said a woman who grew up in the neighborhood.

Will the plan work?

“Some of the really big players have come to the table, COCA and The Black Rep, and they have a reputation in this community for getting things done, so I’m really, really hopeful,” Adams said.

Sumner does not become a magnetic school of the arts; it’s adding artistic opportunities. He has three years to recover, otherwise the school board could permanently close the school.

Kayleen C. Rice