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Paideia Academy drops plans to open next week

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Sept. 2, 2010 - Paideia Academy, which had planned to open its school year the day after Labor Day despite having lost its charter to operate, won't be opening after all.

Fred Robinson, president of the school's board, said Thursday that an effort to secure financing for the school had not worked out, so it would not be accepting students, at least for now. He said the decision was made earlier this week.

"The deal we were working on didn't work," Robinson said, declining to give further details. "The deal we were working on fell through."

He said that ads urging the parents to sign their children up for classes had been pulled. Pressed for more information about the decision not to open, he said simply, "No comment. Since there is no school, there is no story."

A spokesman for the school said it had recruited more than half of its goal of 300-400 students. He would not say that the school had given up hopes of operating in the future, noting that it was run by a "diehard group."

Thursday's announcement ends a long, often confusing road for Paideia.

As a charter school, it was once sponsored by the Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla, but that school backed out of the arrangement. Lincoln University in Jefferson City expressed interest in assuming the sponsorship, but it never voted on the issue. Meanwhile, the state Board of Education revoked the school's charter in June.

Paideia went to court to try to win its charter back, but it lost in circuit court, where Judge Jon Beetem ruled in July that it did not have the necessary authorization to accept students. "No sponsor, no charter," he said. The school initially appealed his ruling but later withdrew the appeal.

Despite the fact that it was no longer a charter school and was not affiliated with the St. Louis Public Schools, Paideia officials insisted it planned to open this fall at its north St. Louis location at 2017 East Linton Ave. A banner hanging over the door there proclaimed that it was enrolling students, with classes scheduled to begin on Aug. 20.

That date was later changed to Tuesday, the day after Labor Day -- three weeks after the St. Louis Public Schools started. Advertisements on radio and television promised parents they could enroll their children at no charge, but no one associated with Paideia would say where the money to operate the school would come from.

Besides its north St. Louis location, Paideia had also talked with St. Louis Public Schools officials about using the closed Lyon School in south St. Louis, according to SLPS spokesman Patrick Wallace. He said there had also been some discussion about the city school system absorbing Paideia, as it did with the Ethel Hedgeman Lyle Academy when it shut down abruptly earlier this year. But neither proposal got as far as being presented to the district's Special Administrative Board, which would have the final say, Wallace said.

Asked about what would happen to the school's staff, Robinson would say only that "I'm sure there are teachers who have found other employment." He would not divulge the names of any families whose children had signed up for Paideia this fall, citing privacy concerns.

Dale Singer began his career in professional journalism in 1969 by talking his way into a summer vacation replacement job at the now-defunct United Press International bureau in St. Louis; he later joined UPI full-time in 1972. Eight years later, he moved to the Post-Dispatch, where for the next 28-plus years he was a business reporter and editor, a Metro reporter specializing in education, assistant editor of the Editorial Page for 10 years and finally news editor of the newspaper's website. In September of 2008, he joined the staff of the Beacon, where he reported primarily on education. In addition to practicing journalism, Dale has been an adjunct professor at University College at Washington U. He and his wife live in west St. Louis County with their spoiled Bichon, Teddy. They have two adult daughters, who have followed them into the word business as a communications manager and a website editor, and three grandchildren. Dale reported for St. Louis Public Radio from 2013 to 2016.