Langston Hughes to close, students to shuffle

Although community residents have battled to save Langston Hughes Elementary/Middle School, the school will not open its doors at the start of the school year.

The state Board of Education said Tuesday that it won’t consider an appeal to save the Northwest Baltimore school from closure until Sept. 22 — three weeks after opening day.

The school has faced months of uncertainty after it was slated for closure as part of a $1 billion plan to renovate and rebuild the district’s infrastructure, a plan that included shuttering 26 buildings.

George Mitchell, president of the Langston Hughes Community Action Association, filed an appeal with the Maryland Department of Education and was initially granted a hearing before an administrative judge on July 22.

Last month, though, the judge told the state board a hearing wasn’t needed — siding with city school officials who had filed a motion to cancel it. On Tuesday, a spokeswoman for the State Department of Education said officials expect to review the case at the board’s late September meeting. Baltimore schools open for the year on Aug. 31.

Mitchell, whose earlier request for a Circuit Court injunction was dismissed in April, was disappointed in the latest development; he said the group may consider a federal lawsuit.

School officials recommended Langston Hughes for closure primarily because its 176 students used only 58 percent of the building, and the building’s upkeep was a financial drain.

Del. Jill Carter, a Baltimore Democrat and attorney, had agreed to represent the association in the administrative appeal.

“There is not one person in the community who advocated for this school to close,” Carter said. “I really just think it was an unjust decision, in contrast with the best interest of the children.”

Baltimore school officials did not respond to a request for comment.

Students displaced from Langston Hughes will attend neighboring Arlington Elementary/Middle or Pimlico Elementary/Middle this year. Many will move again because those facilities are slated for renovation in the next two years.

Officials said students at Pimlico will move into the old Garrison Middle School building for the 2016-2017 school year while Pimlico is renovated; students at Arlington will move into Garrison for the 2017-2018 school year. Both will reopen to students in August 2018.

Parents who opposed the Langston Hughes closure held a march in May and said students would have to walk through one of the city's most violent neighborhoods to attend other schools. They also said their school served as a community hub for Park Heights.

“There’s no community in America where we don’t have no supermarket, no library, no nothing,” Mitchell said. “The only thing we had was Langston Hughes — and they’re going to take it away.”

State Sen. Lisa Gladden, another Baltimore Democrat, said she hopes Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake's administration will consider converting the Langston Hughes building on Arbutus Avenue into a recreation center.

“We’ve never had that kind of space for the kids of Park Heights, and they so desperately need it,” she said.

erica.green@baltsun.com

twitter.com/EricaLG

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