Special-ed high taps ex-hospital

Kennedy Krieger aims to build high school at New Children's

July 28, 1999|By Kristine Henry | Kristine Henry,SUN STAFF

The Kennedy Krieger Institute plans to open its new high school on the New Children's Hospital campus in North Baltimore, rather than at the former Eastern High School as originally planned.

The institute will sign a lease to occupy the campus' Bennett Institute building for a year while negotiations continue on the purchase of a permanent location there. The Kennedy Krieger School will open Sept. 7 with about 45 students.

Robin Church, the institute's assistant vice president for education, said Kennedy Krieger is seeking to buy 15 acres on the site and also occupy at least part of the hospital building, which would either be renovated or torn down. The facility would serve up to 250 students.

"It's fabulous," she said yesterday. "It's going to be very nice. It's a good location, easy to get to, and it's easy for school systems to get students to it, and that's an advantage over the Eastern High School site."

New Children's Hospital, on Greenspring Avenue, ended its inpatient care in March, bowing to pressure from state regulators who were concerned about low occupancy and high costs.

New Children's gave Sinai Hospital its $20 million endowment along with the hospital building, a doctors office building and the Bennett Institute, which housed a fitness club and physical therapy facilities.

The physical therapy program has been folded into Sinai, and the fitness club in the Bennett Institute will close at the end of August because keeping it open would be unprofitable, said Jill Bloom, spokeswoman for LifeBridge Health, Sinai's parent.

Kennedy Krieger's previous plans called for the school to be located in part of the old Eastern High building, opposite Memorial Stadium. But Kennedy Krieger and the Johns Hopkins University, which owns Eastern High, were unable to agree on terms of the sale in time to open this fall, said Church.

Wendy Odell Magus, a spokeswoman for Kennedy Krieger, said the institute is still discussing the Eastern High proposal with Hopkins but that the New Children's Hospital site is now its top choice for the high school.

Dennis O'Shea, a Hopkins spokesman, said the university still considers Eastern High in the running for the Kennedy Krieger high school. As of now, Hopkins does not have a backup tenant at Eastern, he said, adding: "We would aggressively market the space should it come to that."

Kennedy Krieger's high school will serve students with learning and emotional disabilities, developmental disorders and traumatic brain injuries, just as it already does at its lower and middle schools. The state has pledged $7 million for the high school.

Students will be able to earn either a high school diploma, or -- for students who are not able to master all subjects sufficiently to earn a diploma -- a certificate that will show employers the areas in which they have competency.

"What we're trying to do is give options to kids that go beyond flipping burgers at McDonald's the rest of their lives," Church said.

Bloom, the spokeswoman for Sinai's parent, said any proceeds from the sale would be put into the New Children's endowment, which Sinai agreed to use for pediatric programs when it took over the hospital's assets.

Sinai plans to rename its pediatrics department Children's Hospital at Sinai.

Bloom said she did not expect the physicians office building, which is still occupied, to be affected by Kennedy Krieger's plans. An assisted-living facility being constructed on the site also will not be affected, she said.

Pub Date: 7/28/99

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