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Students expected to be back in classrooms at Collegiate by end of the month

Flowers and balloons sit outside of Central Visual and Performing Arts HS, where a gunman killed at least two people, on Monday, Oct. 24, 2022, in south St. Louis.
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
Flowers and balloons sit outside the building that houses two SLPS high schools hours after a shooting on Oct. 24. Students and staff at Collegiate School of Medicine and Bioscience should be back in the building by the end of the month at the latest.

Students at one of two high schools attacked by a gunman on Oct. 24 are expected to get back to learning next week.

A timeline released Thursday by St. Louis Public Schools calls for the Collegiate School of Medicine and Bioscience to do virtual learning Nov. 9-11, with a day for professional development on Nov. 7 and a day off for the election on Nov. 8. If repairs at the building are completed in time, Collegiate students who feel comfortable will be back in person on Nov. 14, Nov. 28 at the latest.

The district developed the timeline with input from students, staff and teachers. Frederick Steele, the principal at Collegiate, said the results, which showed people wanted to return, made him feel more comfortable about it.

“This is their home. This is their school, and they want to come back to their home as soon as it's safe," he said. “They also want the socialization that they count on from in-person learning.”

The district plans to assign full-time therapists to both Collegiate and Central Visual and Performing Arts High School, which share the campus at 3125 S. Kingshighway. Steele said that will be important to help students who may be overcome with unexpected emotions after stepping into the building.

“I’m asking our teachers to be very intentional and patient as they begin instruction,” Steele said.

Any student who does not feel comfortable returning in person will be able to do virtual learning for the rest of the semester. Steele said the district is still discussing whether to continue with the virtual option beyond December.

“We need to have the experience of having students back in the building after this traumatic event, and to be able to observe several weeks of that,” he said.

Frederick Steele, principal at Collegiate School of Medicine and Bioscience, on Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022, outside the school in south St. Louis.
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
Frederick Steele, principal at Collegiate School of Medicine and Bioscience, said survey results that showed parents, students and staff wanted to get back into the building after the shooting made him more comfortable with the timeline.

Byron Clemens, spokesman for American Federation of Teachers Local 420, the union representing the district’s teachers, called the arrangement understandable but less than ideal.

“This is really difficult to sort this out,” he said. “We all know that the virtual setting is the least best. We know from what happened in the pandemic that it just really didn’t work for students.”

The timeline is less clear for students to return to CVPA – its portion of the building was more heavily damaged in the attack.

“We are allowing CVPA students time and space for healing this week,” SLPS Superintendent Kelvin Adams said in a statement. “We will continue to proceed slowly and let them guide us on the right time to return.”

A former student at CVPA fatally shot two people before being killed by police. Alexzandria Bell, 15, was a sophomore at CVPA. Jean Kuzcka, 61, was CVPA’s health teacher and coached Collegiate’s cross-country team.

Seven others were wounded, with injuries ranging from gunshots to cuts. 

A spokesman for SLPS said officials are working with the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to make sure the district complies with regulations about the required number of instructional hours and limits on virtual schooling. He said conversations with the department have been positive and productive.

Follow Rachel on Twitter: @rlippmann

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.