"It is unfortunate that someone who lives on the other side of the boundary looking in can't take advantage of this," said Chris Shea, CEO of EBDI.

"What's more unfortunate is that that family doesn't have a quality educational opportunity in their neighborhood. The fact that Baltimore City schools and the city government failed that family is not something I can respond to."

Changing priority levels

This spring, a group of neighborhood leaders hand-delivered hundreds of applications and papered the neighborhood with fluorescent pink fliers in the week leading to the application deadline, informing families who might have otherwise missed the chance to participate in the school's lottery.

Many parents had believed that because they live so close to the school, that their children did not have to apply and would automatically be able to attend. Now, they believe that the school was never intended for their children.

During a recent neighborhood canvass to follow up with families whose applications were returned to the school, most answered the door armed with wait-list letters — and disappointment.

Kiera Kearney, who lives on Madison Street, said she is praying her son Shedric Barnes gets into the school because "Hopkins is going to have a little college campus over there."

The 90,000-square-foot facility will be unlike any other kindergarten-through-eighth grade institution in the city, Hopkins officials say, with the best technology and aesthetics. Classes, where a world-class curriculum aimed at individualized learning will be taught, will be capped at 20 students and deliver a holistic, comprehensive learning experience.

The school, originally planned to open in September, will open in January 2014 because of construction delays, officials said. The 368 students who are enrolled in the school will attend classes in a modular structure and then transfer to the new building.

Shedric, one of 97 children vying for 48 spots in the kindergarten class, was wait-listed after participating in the lottery.

"I thought he was in there, for real, because the school is right there," Kearney said, waving in the direction of the school, which is closer to her house than her son's current school. "We need a protest or something. How [do] you have a raffle for kids to get into a school that's up the street?"

Stephanie Ruffner, whose North Chester Street home is a block from the new school but was in the next-to-last priority level, was among several parents who took Hopkins' and EBDI's characterization of a "neighborhood school" literally.

She believed incorrectly that she could simply register her students in June.

Now she's preparing to make life changes so that her kids, who have been wait-listed, can get in.

"I want to know if I get a job in housekeeping at Hopkins, if then my kids can go there," she added. "I would do that. Because they deserve better than they're getting."

The students' chances came down to a map hand-drawn by a committee of Hopkins and EBDI representatives and a contract that has grown to include five priority enrollment categories, up from two.

Originally, the school planned to give "families living in or relocated from the EBDI redevelopment area" first priority and then open it to families citywide, according to the school's original contract.

In July 2011, the city school board approved the Hopkins-Morgan partnership, in which Morgan, which specializes in science, technology, engineering and math curricula, would bring its manpower and knowledge about educating children from urban communities to the school.

At the same time, the board also agreed to the operators' request to add more priority levels for admission, believing that it would ease overcrowding at other schools.

The students who currently attend the East Baltimore Community School and are from all over the city have first priority, along with the families who were displaced and those from a number of blocks called the "catchment area" that includes the EBDI redevelopment zone and blocks surrounding Hopkins institutions.