By Antonio D. French
Filed Friday, June 2 at 11:07 AM
A letter from Peter Downs, school board member and founder of The St. Louis Schools Watch:
As one of the seven school board members, who must vote on the disposition of the ROTC program currently at Cleveland High School, many, many people have asked me what my opinion on the proposed moves of the Junior ROTC and Classical Junior Academy programs from Cleveland and McKinley Schools.
I think we should move the students out of Cleveland while we work on a plan with community representatives to repair and reopen Cleveland as a high school.
Some people may argue that since the old school board refused to work with north side communities when it closed 16 schools three years ago, this board should not work with south side communities now. I opposed the board's action three years ago. I do not believe that wrong doing by school board members three years ago in any way sets a precedent that I must follow today.
I have seen nothing, either in Superintendent Williams' presentation or in the tour of damage that Cleveland's principal gave me, that indicates there is any structural damage to facility, although I did see a lot of cosmetic damage.
I think the history and architectural significance of the building have value. During the public hearing, I heard representatives from different parts of the community express their willingness to work to both determine a repair plan and raise money to help carry it out.
I think the school board should explore the offers of help from the community for repairing and reopening the school. The potential for private help to preserve and update the existing facility could make that course much cheaper for the school district than the alternative that Williams put forward, that of tearing down the facility and building new.
As for McKinley, I think it makes no sense to mess with a successful program that regularly ranks among the top ten in the state. I think the Classical Junior Academy should stay where it is and the school district should look elsewhere for a temporary home for the ROTC program that is currently at Cleveland.
I am not speaking here for anyone else. These opinions are the personal opinions of just one of the seven school board members.