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UMSL revokes sponsorship of St. Louis charter school

Preclarus Mastery Academy is housed within the Third Baptist Church at Washington Avenue.
St Louis Public Radio
Preclarus Mastery Academy is housed within the Third Baptist Church on North Grand Boulevard at Washington Avenue.

Updated at 3:06 p.m. with comment from Preclarus board chair — Students at the charter school Preclarus Mastery Academy will most likely have to enroll somewhere else next year.

After several years of poor showings on state report cards, the University of Missouri-St. Louis is revoking its sponsorship of the school, which is located in the Grand Center Arts District. 

Bill Mendelsohn, the executive director of UMSL’s charter school office, formally notified Preclarus’ board Monday evening that the university will stop sponsoring the school in June.

Under Missouri law, public charter schools need a sponsor to operate.

“The bottom line is the student academic performance was just not where it needed to be and hasn’t been for several years,” said Mendelsohn.

“We were seriously considering terminating sponsorship a year ago, but we were really encouraged by an improved governing board that was really much more hands on, and their hiring of a fine school leader who took the reins in July of 2015.”

Preclarus Mastery Academy is located in the Third Baptist Church, at 620 N. Grand Blvd.
Credit Mapbox | OpenStreetMap
Preclarus Mastery Academy is located at 620 N. Grand Blvd.

Mendelsohn said he’s been impressed with Superintendent Tonya Harris’ leadership, but Preclarus was unable to meet the requirements his office laid out last year.

“Our office clearly saw improvements in the school in the level of instruction, the culture in the building, etcetera,” Mendelsohn said. “But quite honestly the reforms really didn’t get traction until maybe midway through the year, and the student academic performances measured by state test results didn’t move the needle enough.”

Mendelsohn said Preclarus has been unable to find another sponsor, and will close permanently at the end of the school year.

But Tabbatha Sipes, Preclarus' board chair, said the board is still looking at other options and has not yet decided to close.

"Our school has various options in light of UMSL’s decision and our board is weighing those options to make the best decision for our students, families and staff, and there has been no decision to permanently close at this time.  Any message to the contrary is unproductive at this time," Sipes said in an email.

About 150 children in 4th through 8th grade attended Preclarus in 2016.

Follow Camille on Twitter: @cmpcamille.