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St. Louis College Prep To Close; Lafayette Prep Poised To Step In

Leaders at St. Louis College Prep plan to close and sell the school to a nearby charter school because of financial turmoil caused by an investigation into falsified attendance records.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio
Leaders at St. Louis College Prep plan to close and sell the school to a nearby charter school because of financial turmoil caused by an investigation into falsified attendance records.

Seniors at St. Louis College Prep will be the independent public school’s first, last and only graduating class.

St. Louis College Prep, a charter middle and high school that was thrown into fiscal distress late last year, will close down at the end of the academic year and a nearby charter school will fill the void, according to Steve Singer, president of College Prep’s board.

School leaders made the decision after grappling for months with a major drop in state aid stemming from an investigation into falsified attendance records.

“We don’t have the financial resources to continue,” Singer said.

The board decided last month to sell the school to Lafayette Preparatory Academy, an elementary and middle charter school a half-mile away that has plans to grow. The board also considered selling to KIPP St. Louis charter schools, but Singer said Lafayette Prep’s educational philosophy is a better fit.

St. Louis College Prep opened in 2011 as South City Prep. It serves grades 6 through 12 at its school on the near southside. Founder and executive director Mike Malone resigned Nov. 1 after accusations he falsified attendance records to boost state funding.

College Prep’s board and sponsor reported the irregularities to the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, and the department began clawing back tens of thousands of dollars in over payments each month. The state auditor’s office is investigating.

Before the problem was reported, St. Louis College Prep received $390,000 in funding in October. Its January payment dropped to $251,000, a reduction of $139,000 in just four months. The school shortened the academic calendar and laid off staff in an effort to balance its books before deciding to close.

Lafayette Prep, meanwhile, is growing. It added seventh grade in August and will add eighth grade this year. The school opened in 2013 and is putting an addition onto its school building in Lafayette Square to fit middle-school classes.

Lafayette Prep’s Executive Director Susan Marino confirmed plans to buy the school building but said the purchase and other aspects have not been finalized and so she wouldn’t discuss specifics on taking the soon-to-close high school into the fold. In a statement, Marino said, “there has been an overwhelming call from the community to add a high school.”

“We believe there is an immediate need for a high school program in our neighborhood that would serve families across St. Louis,” the statement continued.

Students and teachers currently at College Prep will not be required to stay at the school next year, but Singer said the school hopes it will be a “seamless transition.”

Follow Ryan on Twitter: @rpatrickdelaney

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Copyright 2021 St. Louis Public Radio. To see more, visit St. Louis Public Radio.

Ryan Delaney works on the Innovation Trail project - covering technology, economic development, startups and other issues relating to New York's innovation economy.
Ryan Delaney
Ryan is a reporter on the education desk at St. Louis Public Radio, covering both higher education and the many school districts in the St. Louis region. He has previously reported for public radio stations WFYI in Indianapolis and WRVO in upstate New York. He began his journalism career working part time for WAER while attending Syracuse University. He's won multiple reporting awards and his work, which has aired on NPR, The Takeaway and WGBH's Innovation Hub. Having grown up in Burlington, Vt., he often spends time being in the woods hiking, camping, and skiing.