Following on the heels of a recent post on the Montessori Training and Lab School located in Grand Center, there is more exciting news on the academic front. The Biome, an innovative charter school located at the Youth Learning Center, 4471 Olive, will open in August. While there are many charter schools in the St. Louis area, this is the first in the CWE.
Some background on the facility: The Youth Learning Center, a 501(c)(3), was founded in 2003 by Minister Willie L. Kent, Sr. and Ray and Judy DeLuca-Ford. The after-school enrichment program for under-served youth has an enrollment of 70 1st through 8th grade students. There are 12 teachers on the staff as well 70 tutors, one for each student. The tutors are volunteers from Washington University, St. Louis University, and UMSL. After school classes, which cost $140 a month, offer academic support and enrichment – animation, video game design, etc.
YLC's Board of Directors wanted to expand the program to provide year-round, deeper learning opportunities for students in the community. Bill Kent Jr., the Chief Administrative Officer of The Biome, spent the last two years fulfilling the board's objectives by creating the charter school of his dreams, the one he wishes he could have attended as a youth.
Bill described The Biome as "an academic ecosystem": "Parents will have a hard time prying their kids out of here at the end of the day. This is a school for inquisitive kids who learn by doing. Learning will be project-based…on steroids!"
Charter schools are free and open to all. 75% of the funding comes from the State of Missouri; the remainder from private donations. None of the monies charter schools receive from the state can fund the facility. This is where The Biome has a huge advantage: the Youth Learning Center, where the charter school will be located, is a fabulous facility and is debt free.
The Biome is seeking a diverse population that reflects the wider community. The school will open with 2 kindergarten and 2 first grade classes with 20 children in each. It will grow slowly, adding a grade each year until 8th grade in 2022-23.
Debi Weaver, left, is Principal and Institutional Leader of The Biome. Before entering the field of education, Debi spent 10 years in marketing for both profit and not-for-profit institutions, including New York City's 92nd Street Y. She's been involved in K-12 education in St. Louis for the past 11 years, working in the city public school system and two charter districts, the Gateway Science Academy and as assistant principal at Confluence Academy.
The Biome has taken the STEM approach to education (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math), and integrated an art component for balance: STEAM. Five "exceptional" teachers will be hired for year 1, a mix of seasoned and new ones too.
The photo above shows the gym at the YLC. The main building fronting on Olive will be modified to contain two new classrooms. Master planning is underway to expand the facility as the school's population grows.
For more information, including online application, check the website, or stop by the YLC, 4471 Olive. If more students apply than there are slots available, a random admissions lottery will be held.