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Baltimore School Board's Hearing on the Plan for Schools' Construction
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December 12, 2012
No one testified against the proposed 10-year plan to rebuild Baltimore’s schools at last night’s school board hearing on the issue. The $2.4 billion plan calls for the closure of 26 schools, with four closing at the end of this year. If the plan is approved by the board on Jan. 8, some residents plan to challenge the closures in the courts. WYPR’s Gwendolyn Glenn attended the hearing and has this report.
Last night’s hearing was the first of two scheduled for this week on the 10-year building plan. A large turnout was expected, but only a handful of residents showed up. Only one person testified, Kim Trueheart, who lives near Garrison Middle School. The building plan calls for Garrison to close at the end of this school year because of low academic performance and low enrollment. Trueheart told the board she supports the idea.
“The fact that its’ capacity is 721 and we’ve got 163 students enrolled, to me is wasteful. For that reason alone, I think that this board’s recommendation to close it is probably a wise one. My underlying concern is for the 163 students who are currently enrolled.
School officials say there are other middle schools nearby that can handle Garrison’s displaced students. Parents will get a close look at some of them at the district’s choice fair on Dec. 15 at the convention center. Representatives from 64 middle and high schools will be on hand to talk to parents about their programs. City school’s chief of staff Tisha Edwards says they will provide extra assistance to parents of students at the four schools slated to close, before and after the fair.
At each of these schools, we are also having buses at the schools to take the parents and the students to the choice fair so that we can ensure engagement of those of this particular population of students and we have staff that will be going back out to the schools to work with parents on an individual basis to make sure that they are fully engaged and fully informed as we prepare for the transition if the board does approve staff’s recommendation.
A large turnout is expected Thursday at the final public hearing on the building plan. Alumni of Northwestern High School are planning a rally before the 6 p.m. hearing to voice their opposition to the plan. Under the building plan, Northwestern will close in 2015 because of its low enrollment and poor academic achievement. Rita Carlin is president of Northwestern’s alumni association.
If our name does not come off the list and they go ahead with the proposal for the closure, I am prepared to take it all the way to court.
School officials say it would cost $48 million to bring Northwestern up to modern standards. Carlin disputes that figure and says the school has had renovations, including a new athletic field in recent months. She says in a lawsuit, they would charge that closing Northwestern violates Title 6 of the Civil Rights Act. Title 6 prohibits discrimination based on race in programs that receive federal funding.
Being that they’re dealing with predominately black students in school, they’re hindering their education by closing the school.
Schools Superintendent Andreas Alonso does not think they have a strong case.
Dr. Andreas Alonso
We’re working under the parameters of the law. We have enormous support of the rest of the city and what I hope is that the people in Northwesters who are great supporters of our schools, that they see what this means for the city as a whole.
Dr. Alonso says he supports the alumni association’s right to file a lawsuit and understands their attachment to the school. But says,
We have to make decisions that are about the future, that are about all the kids, and is about doing what we can do so that all of our kids are in great schools.
A report last year revealed that most city schools lack basics such as adequate heating and air conditioning and that only 65 percent of the space in school buildings’ is being used.
I’m Gwendolyn Glenn reporting in Baltimore for 88 1, WYPR.
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