Residents of Northeast Baltimore voiced opposition last night to a city school board proposal to start a small high school next fall on Northern Parkway.
Saying they feared the students would loiter, destroy property, use bad language and fight behind the school, opponents said they hoped the school board would reverse a vote it made several weeks ago.
The high school would open with ninth-graders next year at the Professional Development Center, an existing school system building at 200 E. Northern Parkway that houses administrators and temporary space for students from schools under renovation.
A grade would be added each year until the school had between 300 and 600 students, who otherwise would have gone to Northern High.
To break up the sprawling 2,200-student population at Northern, the system's Chief Executive Officer Carmen V. Russo wants to create two new and much-smaller high schools - one at the development center, the other at an as-yet-undecided site - while shrinking Northern's enrollment.
Residents said that when the development center was a junior high many years go, the neighborhood suffered. "It was destabilizing to the community," said the Rev. Roy Mack, a retired church pastor, recalling the day he came home to put out fires that had been set in the trash cans outside his house.
Several residents said they believed the school system was asking the community to accept too many high schools in one area. Northern High is only six blocks from the center.
Chestina Darden-Butts, another resident, told of the day of a big football game when spillover traffic reached her street. She said she came home to find students parked in her driveway and urinating on her plants.
Students who go to the new high school at the center building would come from a zone including students from Woodholme, Glenmount, Hamilton and Hazelwood Elementary/Middle schools as well as Garrett Heights and Gardenville elementary schools.
The students who would go to Northern would come from neighborhoods west and south of the school. The school board is expected to decide at its May 14 meeting.