If you have toured South City Community School recently, you may have noticed some odd things. A room tucked off the the side of our gym that once served as a school kitchen—fitted with a window and stainless steel counter for receiving food trays—now functions as our art room. Not far away, a former stage, once painted entirely black and still flanked by heavy stage curtains, has been converted into our lending library. While these makeshift rooms are definitely unconventional, we embrace them as a natural extension of our origins as a grassroots, start-up school approaching its ten-year anniversary. A shrewd resourcefulness, an attitude of contentment with limited resources, and a willingness to make the most of whatever God provides continue to be a natural part our identity. But more than that, our current unconventional use of space is a sign of the amazing growth this school has experienced over the last nine years as we have expanded to fill every nook and cranny of the historic school building we inhabit on Reber Place.
Brandy Greiner, our director of education, who was among the founding families of SCCS during its homeschooling co-op years, remembers the time just before SCCS opened its doors as a full-fledged school. A handful of families met in the childcare building belonging to the Journey Church across the alley, setting up and tearing down their learning spaces twice a week. At that time, our current building, though owned by the Journey, had not been in use for a few years. Rooms that had last been used briefly by another school had been abandoned with lots of miscellaneous furniture, files, classroom materials, and debris left behind.
“We have a lot of sweat equity in this building,” says Brandy, “but year by year we have scrubbed floors, hauled away trash, painted, and expanded classroom by classroom to create a beautiful Charlotte Mason, home-like learning space. Our first year, we only occupied four rooms on the third floor. Now we’ve grown to fill every space available.”
Looking back at how our school has grown so quickly in just under a decade is exciting and affirming, but there are challenges ahead of us. Besides feeling the squeeze of our building size limitations, we have also been asked by the Journey to pursue other options for our building arrangements by 2021. All of these factors make it clear that we are at a turning point in our story. We have already begun the search for a new building, and are exploring plans to launch a capital campaign that will fund our long-term home. In the meantime, we will continue to find creatives solutions for maximizing our current space.
With an unprecedented number of new student applications this enrollment season, we think our founding families were onto something important when they sought to establish a school that would be an asset and blessing to an area of St. Louis where quality education options are a big challenge to parents of school-age children. SCCS families often say that if it had not been for South City Community School, they might not have been able to stay in this area of St. Louis long-term. This is a legacy we want to continue and deepen as we head into our search for a learning space that allows us to continue our trajectory of growth while staying true to our origins, mission, and identity.