Education officials reverse last month's decision, will keep alternative school in Hampden open

Decision is announced after plea from parents

September 10, 2002|By Liz Bowie and Erika Niedowski | Liz Bowie and Erika Niedowski,SUN STAFF

Baltimore education officials reversed course last night and said that an alternative school in Hampden that was facing closure because its funding had been cut will get the money it needs to stay open after all.

Chief Academic Officer Cassandra W. Jones said that the Learning Cooperative, a school for 24 teen-age students who have dropped out or failed grades at regular city public schools, will get about $140,000 for the current year -- the same amount as last school year.

"We're going to fund them," Jones said. "We're committed to meet [with school leaders] this week and work out the details in partnership."

A group of the school's supporters made a plea for continued funding at the city school board's public meeting last night.

Ilsa Bailey, whose son attends the school, said it provides a "respectful, peaceful and safe environment" and is an "essential program for our youth."

Bailey said her son had no desire to go to school before he attended the alternative program. Now, she said, "His desire to go to school is rekindled."

Leif Oden, who has attended for almost a year, called the Learning Cooperative a "great school."

`It's more one-on-one'

"It's more one-on-one," he said. "They teach you more like a person."

He said he hopes one day to enroll at Polytechnic Institute or City College, two of the city's best high schools.

"I can do it, but I need your help," he said.

The Learning Cooperative, which is run by the private, nonprofit group Learning Inc., was notified by school officials in late August that its contract would not be renewed when it expired Sept. 30.

"When we got that letter after all our efforts and the successful performance, we were very frustrated and upset," Joel Rabin, board chairman of Learning Inc., had said earlier in the day.

Learning Cooperative officials said test results show that during the past school year students made significant academic gains after five months in the program. They gained two grades in reading, for instance, and more than a grade in math, Karen Henoch-Ryugo, the group's executive director, told the board last night.

`This program works'

"The bottom line is this program works," she said.

Class size is small, with one teacher for every eight students. Most of the students who began attending the school when it opened in January have returned.

Jones said some details have yet to be worked out with the Learning Cooperative, but that the program will go on.

"It'll be a good partnership," she said.

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