Board mulls cut in middle schools' size

Number including prekindergarten to grade 8 would grow

Sweeping reorganization

Panel also poised to vote on closing six schools

February 27, 2002|By Erika Niedowski | Erika Niedowski,SUN STAFF

The Baltimore school board took major steps last night to reduce the size of many of the city's unwieldy middle schools, in part by creating more schools that serve children from prekindergarten through eighth grade.

As part of the second phase of a sweeping reorganization that will affect tens of thousands of children, the board also voted to close six schools, including two special education centers.

The board approved schools Chief Executive Officer Carmen V. Russo's recommendation to keep open a third special education school, Central Career Center at Briscoe, which had been facing closure. But members rejected Russo's recommendation to close Claremont School, which also serves children with special needs.

FOR THE RECORD - A chart accompanying a story yesterday about Baltimore school consolidations and closures incorrectly indicated that Claremont School will be closed in 2004. The school will remain open. The Sun regrets the error.

This is the second time in a year that the nine-member board has voted to close schools. Facing pressure from the state, the board approved in March closing nine buildings as a way to address shrinking enrollment and use its buildings more efficiently.

The actions taken last night - which Russo called a "defining moment" for the system - will affect virtually every area of the city.

A main idea of the plan is to reduce enrollment in the district's chronically low-performing middle schools, some of which have more than 1,000 pupils.

One way to do that is to create more prekindergarten-to-eighth-grade programs, a popular concept in many communities because children remain in their neighborhoods longer.

School officials say research has found that sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders in particular are more successful academically in that setting rather than in stand-alone middle schools. Test scores in Baltimore bear that out.

In Cherry Hill, the board approved the conversion of four elementaries - Arundel, Carter G. Woodson, Cherry Hill and Patapsco - into prekindergarten-to-eighth-grade schools. Seventh-graders will be added beginning in the fall; eighth-graders will be added next year.

Arnett J. Brown Middle School, which has grades seven and eight, will be closed. Children who attend the school will finish there, but no new seventh-graders will be enrolled in the next academic year.

Two other middle schools will also be closed: Thurgood Marshall No. 171, whose students would be absorbed into Thurgood Marshall No. 170, and Fallstaff, which would become an elementary school. Frankford Intermediate will lose its identity and be combined with Moravia Park as another elementary-middle school.

The board approved shutting the two special education schools, but not as soon as originally recommended, in part because of concerns raised by teachers and parents. Upton School will close next year, while Waverly Career Center will close in 2004.

The board professed support for a proposal to convert Booker T. Washington Middle into a prekindergarten-to-eighth-grade school with an arts focus, but deferred action pending further discussion.

The school system's plan calls for the construction of two prekindergarten-to-eighth-grade schools, one in Southeast Baltimore and one in West Baltimore at Lexington Terrace. The construction of both schools, which city officials say would have a math, science and technology theme, is contingent on approval and funding from the state.

Another project that depends on state funds is the conversion of Mount Washington Elementary to a prekindergarten-to-eighth-grade program. The school board approved adding sixth-graders there in the fall.

The board abandoned, for now, an earlier proposal to create a prekindergarten-to-eighth-grade program at City Springs Elementary and to turn Lombard Middle School, across the street, into a high school.

Russo had recommended that the board defer action on opening a high school at the Samuel L. Banks Professional Development Center in Northeast Baltimore, but the board went ahead with that step. Further public discussions will be held, however.

Recommended changes at city schools

Special education

Upton School closes in 2003

Waverly Career Center and Claremont School close in 2004

Cherry Hill

Arnett J. Brown Middle School No. 180 closes in 2003

The following elementary schools become prekindergarten to eighth-grade schools: Carter G. Woodson Elementary No. 160, Cherry Hill Elementary No. 159, Patapsco Elementary No. 163, Arundel Elementary No. 164

The closing of Arnett J. Brown and the conversion of the other schools leaves room to expand the Southside Academy high school in space now occupied by the middle school

Southeast

Thurgood Marshall No. 171 closes in the fall

Frankford Intermediate No. 216 combines with Moravia Park No. 105 to create a prekindergarten to eighth-grade school in the fall; seventh- and eighth-graders are added in 2003

Collington Square Elementary No. 97 converts to prekindergarten to eighth-grade school beginning with sixth graders in the fall; seventh- and eighth-graders are added by 2004

Armistead Gardens Elementary No. 243 pupils attend Southeast Middle rather than No. 171 for middle school beginning with sixth-graders in the fall

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