Community's efforts to reopen Adams Park school pay off Teachers reminisce about school that closed in the '70s

June 28, 1993|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Staff Writer

The best days Rachel H. Brown and Yvonne G. Smith ever had as teachers came in the 1960s at the Adams Park Elementary School in Annapolis.

Their students were interested in learning, they said, and teachers would stay late into the evenings to prepare the lessons.

As they sat in the basement of the Stanton Center on West Washington Street Saturday afternoon, waiting for the start of an awards ceremony for the Adams Park Alumni Association, they couldn't help but remember the old times.

"It was really beautiful," said Ms. Brown, 80, who was the school's assistant principal from 1955 to 1966, the year it was integrated. "The children respected and loved the school."

The school closed in the 1970s and now is home to the Learning Center, a school for troubled youths.

But a persistent lobbying effort from the alumni group persuaded the county school board to reopen Adams Park as a neighborhood school in 1996.

Ms. Smith, who taught at Adams Park in the 1960s and now teaches second grade at Hilltop Elementary School in Glen Burnie, wishes she could return.

"When I heard it would reopen, my first thought was, 'I wonder if I can go back for one more year,' " Ms. Smith said. "But I don't think I can make it that long."

But it's been long enough already for the members of the Adams Park Alumni Association, which gave awards to seven members for their commitment to getting the school reopened.

The members said that 1996 is a long way off and they must keep pushing to ensure that the school board decision sticks.

"This demonstrates that the community is interested," said alumni member Leslie Stanton. "This is an effort to show that the community is involved."

Children in the Adams Park, College Creek and Clay Street corridor now attend two schools: West Annapolis, which is about three miles away, and Rolling Knolls, which is about six miles away.

Many Adams Park parents lack transportation to get to those schools, which means they miss parent-teacher conferences, don't join the PTA and generally stay uninvolved in their children's school activities, the association maintains.

Reopening Adams Park, the group says, would encourage more support and involvement from parents because the school is within walking distance.

"We have done a good job," said Dora Brown, president of the Adams Park Alumni Association. "The people here have backed us all the way to get Adams Park reopened."

And that, many residents and group leaders say, is an important step toward fostering a cohesive community that will rid the area of drugs and crime.

"I came from this neighborhood," said Kirby McKinney, who grew up on Clay Street and has returned to the neighborhood to work at the Stanton Community Center.

"I hear people talk about how it used to be," he said. "There is something wrong with that. Why do we always have to talk about the way it used to be?"

But for Ms. Brown and Ms. Smith, it used to be that the schools were immune from drugs and violence.

"Everyone was interested in education," Ms. Brown said.

"I wish I could figure out what happened," Ms. Smith added.

Both said they hope that when youngsters finally can go back to their neighborhood school, the community can get together to end its problems.

"The world will forget what you said here," said Zastrow Simms, an award recipient who borrowed a line from Abraham Lincoln. "But the world will not forget what you did here. I want you to remember that, Adams Park people."

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