Gaines speaks at State of District address


John Wolff

Mehlville superintendent Dr. Chris Gaines speaks of the current status and goals for the school district during his State of the District presentation on Monday, Sept. 18, in the Nottelmann Auditorium.

Mehlville superintendent Dr. Chris Gaines spoke of the current status and goals for the school district during his State of the District presentation on Monday, Sept. 18, in the Nottelmann Auditorium.

Coming into this year, a newer process called Thought Exchange allowed the community to vote on what was wanted for the school district. The three main demands were to start school in August, have built in snow days, and no weekly staff development. Redistricting has had an upgrade as well, he said, with a better enrollment balance and cleaner feeder systems from moving students to different schools after graduating.

Moving more into the future, Gaines has a new schedule planned for the district. Block scheduling has required a large amount of human resource, and the school committee suggested a more pliable schedule. The schools chose not to jump into this new system, thus the C day was introduced this year as a “phase” into the newly created “flex schedule.”

“A flex schedule is a little bit different,” said Gaines. “In that flex schedule, some classes may meet every other day, some classes may meet every day.”

Facilities were a big interest to the district as well. After all, the school had Prop R and Prop A to add to its funding. Prop A had a singular, dedicated for HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) and roofing. Prop R was a capital piece for more structural expenditures. The public had wondered if the money was truly spent how it was meant to be.

“Internally, we believe that answer is yes,” he said. “But our finance committee is taking a look at it.”

Issues like HVAC require a lot of fixing, such as a 7.5 million dollar current investment plan. The money has also been used for MHS’s football field and OHS’s new Gym A floor. The money has also gone to teacher hiring and training. There are future plans for the district’s spending. The current list includes OHS roof improvements, OHS HVAC, and OHS turf and track in the upcoming year.

This year the district has had many expanded opportunities as well. “We rethought how we were spending some of our funds, and shifted that purpose over to a few things,” said Gaines. This includes Mosaic, the new elementary school, which many people are eager to see even from around the country. MyPath is a new plan as well, which is a “concept that everybody doesn’t have to follow the exact same path towards a high school diploma.” Students can make their own path to “show mastery beyond time in a seat.” Currently there are 12 students enrolled, and the number is expected to double for next year. There are also nine high school students taking classes at St. Louis Community College. Alt Academy and CAPS are just another two of the programs.

Gaines also plans to change the tax levy in the future. “Right now it takes 51 cents to pay the payment and to build for future payments” said Gaines. In the 21-22 school year, the estimate today is 4 cents needed instead. It is planned to ask voters in the 20-21 school year to move 41 cents to fund facilities and operations, “very similar to Prop A” to allow for flexibility. Since it is still in the future, Gaines intends to take it slow, considering “we have three years to make a package that makes sense.”

Gaines wants to do what we already do better, but is looking to shape future. Over 10,000 students, he said, are looking to the sky, wondering about their future, but jobs they may have may not exist today. However, Gaines said, “If we create the conditions where our kids can be problem solvers and be learners, and try to do our best, I think we will be in good shape, and can make a school system that others would envy.”

Future board listening sessions will occur on Dec. 5, March 6, and May 1.