The East Baltimore Community School has been operating as a charter since 2009 under the auspices of East Baltimore Development Inc., the nonprofit group created in 2002 to oversee the $1.8 billion redevelopment of the area surrounding Hopkins. Once a working- and middle-class black neighborhood, the area has been scarred by poverty and crime.
EBDI also plans to build 1,500 new homes and 1.7 million square feet of laboratory, office and retail space, and a slew of civic amenities.
Discussions about the EDBI project continue to be contentious, with residents expressing concern about whether they will be able to afford to live in the new community or benefit from its amenities.
But community members do hope the school will be a magnet for families who have left the neighborhood. Project planners also hope to attract new families, and they point to market research that indicates that the school would be a draw.
The school "is among the core bedrock opportunities of the project," said Christopher Shea, CEO of EBDI. He said that delivering on the school was imperative to getting the community on board with the new redevelopment project.
"We will be as successful as that school is," Shea said. "And we have the best opportunity with these two [universities]."
The city school board approved the transfer of the school from EDBI to Hopkins this month.
But the proposal for Hopkins to run the school was met with caution by some community members.
"We had a lot of people in the neighborhood who wanted Hopkins to sit in the back seat on this," said Redmond. "But we knew if Hopkins came in, they would bring the best of the best."
In an letter to The Baltimore Sun in December, community members expressed concern about what they considered to be "myths" about the promise of EBDI.
The community school was identified as Myth No. 3. "We do not doubt that the East Baltimore Community School provides high-quality education. But, of its 200 students, it is our understanding that only a handful currently live in East Baltimore or are from the original community," residents Donald Gresham and Leon Purnell wrote.
Shea said that's a misconception. Though it mirrors a charter model, the school is technically a "contract school," which allows it to designate at least 70 percent of its seats to students from East Baltimore, including those who have relocated because of the redevelopment. Remaining seats will be filled by students in schools surrounding the neighborhood and in a citywide lottery.
Other residents praise what they see as the universities' commitment to the East Baltimore Community School.
Betty Carlos, 65, a lifelong Middle East resident whose daughter, Gift, is a student at the school, said that Hopkins is bringing hope to the community for the first time in a long while.
In June, Carlos' 7-year-old was attacked by a pit bull, and her face was disfigured. World-class Hopkins surgeons reconstructed Gift's face after Andrews, the dean of Hopkins' School of Education, who didn't know the family, made a phone call.
He promised Carlos that Gift would start the second grade this year healed and in good spirits.
"Everything he told me has come to pass, and it's just overwhelming that such a big change has come," said Carlos, who will serve on the school's board this year. "Of all things, it was important that Gift get the best education, and Hopkins is the best.
"A lot of people are scared of the change," she said. "But I tell all of the parents to get on board because this is where it's happening. … I see a bright future for our children."
The East Baltimore Community School will open Monday with kindergarten through third grade, and sixth and seventh grades. It will gradually grow to serve kindergarten through eighth grade.
Hopkins will implement a project-based learning curriculum focused on literacy and math. The school's plans also includes an extended learning day, individualized academic plans and programs that focus on physical and mental health.
"We have the capacity to look at every child, the whole child, every day," said Andrews, who will move into a rehabbed home a few blocks from the school.
Students at both university schools of education also will do internships, mentorships and student teaching there.
Andrews said it was "inadequate" for the School of Education to produce teachers in an urban environment and not prepare them to work in one. More importantly, he said, the nationally renowned school cannot generate expert research that it hasn't put into practice.
The East Baltimore Community School will emerge as "a small school with a big footprint," Andrews said.
"What we learn here in Baltimore, we'll be disseminating to a much broader audience," he said.