The St. Louis Regional Program for Exceptionally Gifted Students (PEGS) opened its doors in September of 1991 with one teacher and seven elementary students. It has grown to seven teachers and one hundred students. The program also employs one part-time teacher for modern language, an administrative assistant and two full-time instructional assistants. Today students range in grades from first through twelfth.
Students go through a rigorous admissions procedure since PEGS services only those in the genius range of intelligence. School districts have the option to pledge their participation and contract with Lindbergh Schools for services, paying tuition for qualifying students. Students currently represent fifteen participating districts in St. Louis and Jefferson Counties.
In 1996, planning began for a northern metropolitan site for PEGS. Due to the efforts of Bill Emerick, Executive Director of Gifted Education for the Ferguson-Florissant School District, DESE approved a planning grant for the 1997-98 school year. Darlene Sokol was in charge of the planning. The north/northwest site opened to serve grades one through three for the 1998-99 school year. There were two students enrolled in September and a third in January of that school year. The two PEGS sites are under the direction of the current Advisory Committee, whose members are gifted educators and administrators from several area school districts and universities.
PEGS has been the only program of its kind in the country. In 1995, with our assistance, a site was opened in Kansas City, Mo. In 1999 Columbia (Mo.) Public Schools requested our assistance in developing a PEGS program in their area. The Columbia, Mo. program opened its doors for the 2000-01 school year. Minnetonka (Minn.) Public Schools also used the PEGS model to develop its exceptionally gifted program.
The elementary school program is a self-contained program in which students are mainstreamed for art, music and physical education classes. Curriculum is accelerated and enriched with an emphasis on creativity, critical thinking, creative problem solving and creative production.
At the middle school and high school levels, students are accelerated by off-grade level class placement. Currently, most students are in classes above their chronological placement. Of the 20 middle school students, several are dual-enrolled at the high school level. The middle school teachers teach English and social studies classes. There also are 36 full-time students at the high school, taking mostly honors and International Baccalaureate classes. A high school teacher was added in the 2000-01 school year, serving as a teacher, liaison, mentor and primary advocate.
For the first time, in June of 1999, PEGS students graduated from Lindbergh High School. These two students received their high school diplomas at the ages of 15 and 16. One of these students had dropped out of school and was planning on obtaining a GED and then working on a bachelor's degree via computer. The second spent much of his time studying independently in the principal's office prior to enrolling in PEGS. After receiving numerous offers, these two young people accepted full scholarships to Washington University in St. Louis and Truman State University.
A planning committee of gifted education experts from local districts and universities created the program and continues to provide leadership and assistance with policy decisions, identifying qualifying applicants, and other general matters. Lindbergh Schools and the Pattonville School District are the legal and fiscal agents for the program. In addition, the districts provides space, utilities and some district selected textbooks, as well as guidance and technology support services to the program.