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Northwestern students, parents stunned to hear of closing

On Wednesday, the main topic of conversation at Northwestern High School will likely be the school's impending closing and what the move might mean to the current student body.

But when school dismissed at 2:50 p.m. Tuesday, many Northwestern students and parents hadn't heard a thing about the plan — even though it had been announced more than two hours earlier by Baltimore school officials.

Most Northwestern students and parents appeared stunned to hear the news when told by The Baltimore Sun, and some hadn't known that such a move was a possibility. It is the second time in seven years that the school has faced the possibility of closing.

"Why are they closing this one? Where are the kids going to go after they close it?" asked Patricia Williams, whose daughter Patricia Boone is a ninth-grader at the school. "It's easy to get to; it's right in the area."

Northwestern is to be closed during the 2015-2016 school year, meaning that those most likely to be affected by its closing are ninth-graders now.

The weather-beaten brick building at Park Heights Avenue and Fallstaff Road has, according to the school website, graduated more than 20,000 students since opening 46 years ago. Among its graduates are state Sen. Verna Jones and former Mayor Sheila Dixon.

"It was a very diverse school with excellent programs, so it's disheartening to hear that your alma mater is closing," Dixon said, noting that she and former classmates celebrated their 40th reunion in July.

Asked her fondest memories of the school, Dixon, who resigned as mayor in a plea deal, said, "The camaraderie with my classmates. We were a very close-knit class, a very talented class."

That camaraderie is shared by current students, some of whom left Tuesday wondering whether they would end up at other schools before the closing.

Tenth-grader Martavious Somerville said he heard about the closing from The Sun as he headed home. He said he and other schoolmates had spoken about the closing, and he expected it to be the focus of conversations Wednesday.

Somerville said that while his graduating class will likely depart before the school closes, he still laments the closing. "I was a bit shocked to hear of it because I think it's a good school."

Yolanda Lawrence said the school system should consider alternatives to closing schools.

"I think it's a shame that they're closing schools, period," said Lawrence, whose daughter Oshaia Robinson is a ninth-grader at Northwestern. "They need to be building up more schools. Instead, they're building up more jails and closing more schools. That's a shame."

Michael Eugene Johnson, president of Northwestern's national alumni association, said the group fought off an earlier attempt to close the school.

"We plan to fight back again," he said. "I don't think that Northwestern High School is getting a fair shake in this."

jburris@baltsun.com

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