Changes in schools opposed


More than 30 teachers, principals, students and parents spoke yesterday against the proposed closure and relocation of several Baltimore schools.

They used 50 minutes of the allotted hour before the city school board to make their case, speaking forcefully about the importance of attending classes in the same buildings, surrounded by the same teachers and students.

They echoed a worry expressed at past forums: the great risk for an explosion of violence because of mixing of students from different schools.

"By y'all telling us that y'all moving us to Harbor City West, it's really hurting," said Mo'Nique Brown, 15, a ninth-grader at Francis M. Wood. "If you move us to Harbor West, you don't even know if people are gonna come to school. You're gonna have people dropping out. It's in a very bad area."

Officials announced plans to close and relocate schools last year after pressure from the state because of dropping enrollment. About 85,000 students are enrolled in a system that has room for 125,000.

The forum was designated to discuss the proposed relocations of the Vivien T. Thomas Medical Arts Academy to Francis M. Wood Alternative High; the Renaissance Academy to Booker T. Washington Middle, which would remain; and a new home for Talent Development school.

Bret Sears, 14, a ninth-grader at Renaissance Academy, said the strict uniform standards of tucked-in shirts made him want to attend the school. And Principal Karl E. Perry has made a lasting impression with rules that have set a standard of behavior and fostered a nurturing learning environment.

"When I came here, I didn't care about nothing," Sears said. "Now I'm serious about my life, and I want to make a difference. Please consider this when you think about moving us."

The board is scheduled to vote Tuesday on the first part of the proposal, with a second vote April 6 to determine the rest.

After the board makes a final decision on closures, the public has 30 days to appeal to the State Board of Education.

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