High school to open with about 50 students

Hampden facility is 1 of 4 set to replace Northern

August 12, 2002|By Erika Niedowski | Erika Niedowski,SUN STAFF

A new small high school opening next month as a way to help reduce enrollment at Baltimore's troubled Northern High will be quite small indeed: Between 40 and 50 students will attend.

That's the number of ninth-graders who schools Chief Executive Officer Carmen V. Russo expects will enroll in classes at a portable building on the grounds of Robert Poole Middle School in Hampden.

"We just felt that at least we got it started as an extension of the middle school," she said. "We think it's important to have a site in that community."

City school officials originally projected that the school would enroll between 100 and 150 students for the coming academic year, which starts Sept. 3.

Russo attributed the low enrollment to several factors: a late start by the school system in finding a site; a high dropout rate between eighth and ninth grades in that community; and the fact that some children who attended Robert Poole have been accepted to citywide high schools.

The new school will not have a separate principal or administrative staff, she said. Some teachers at the middle school might be asked to teach ninth-grade classes as well.

School board members approved in May a plan to reduce enrollment by half at the current Northern site, where some students and teachers complained of violence and chaos. Under that plan, the school's enrollment will be reduced during the next several years from 2,000 to 1,000 - leaving about 500 students each in career academies focused on environmental science and business.

The plan also calls for the opening of two new high schools to absorb the remainder of students who normally would have been assigned to Northern.

One of those schools, at the Samuel L. Banks Professional Development Center at 2500 E. Northern Parkway, will open next month with about 300 students in ninth and 10th grades. The second school, which officials had wanted to locate in central Baltimore, was placed at Robert Poole.

Russo said the school system will work with the community during the coming year to find a permanent site for that school. She said officials might change the boundaries that determine where students are assigned. She added that there needs to be some dialogue.

"It may very well be that in order to relieve a little bit of [the enrollment at] Lake Clifton, we might want to change the boundary," she said. "We don't want to jump that [process], but we did want to start."

All of the changes are part of a systemwide high school reform effort that calls for smaller learning communities and more rigorous academics.

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