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Northwestern High School should stay open

Northwestern High School, a comprehensive, coeducational public high school on Park Heights Avenue in Baltimore City, is a beautiful campus with a diverse student body, offering opportunities for cultural enrichment for all. It has a strong alumni group and a proud legacy. There has been much recent financial investment in enhancing the school. Its notable graduates include former Mayor Sheila Dixon; District Court Judge Jack I. Lesser; District Court Judge Barbara Waxman; City Comptroller Joan Pratt; state Sen. Verna Jones; and Laura Murphy, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Washington Legislative Office.

It is also slated to be closed as part of the $2.4 billion strategy, announced by Baltimore Schools CEO Andrés Alonso, to rebuild the Baltimore school system. The questions so many Northwestern students, alumni and teachers are asking: "Why Northwestern? Why now?"

 

Several years ago our school was threatened with closure, and now we are faced with the same challenge. The Coalition to Save Northwestern is organizing to fight back, standing behind the school's motto: "To strive, to seek, to find and not to yield." We hope there will be public meetings to listen to input from parents, teachers, school councils, community members and other interested parties.

The school sits on a beautiful campus surrounded by tall trees. Its amenities include new bleachers that seat more than 2,000; a new gymnasium; a new sound system in the auditorium; new tennis courts, volleyball court and handball courts; new floors in the dance room; a completely renovated, Olympic-size swimming pool; new air conditioning in the auditorium; a renovated library; more than 700 brand-new lockers; two new computer labs; student television lab; legal size student courtroom; a newly renovated greenhouse on the roof to grow flowers and fresh vegetables; and wi-fi throughout the entire school. Some of these renovations were accomplished through the work of the school's strong alumni association.

Why would the school system spend all this money on a school, only to close it? Taxpayers, having invested millions of dollars over the past six years, should be angry. I support and agree with the school system about moving our students into a 21st century environment, but Northwestern can and should be that "super school." It has the campus, and we have the students in the community as well as many great feeders schools (Cross Country, Arlington, Mount Washington, Fallstaff and others).

Northwestern offers career and college pathways including Junior ROTC, Interactive Media, and Law and Leadership. Its enrollment has grown beyond projections. Students are able to develop skills necessary for success in their everyday lives and for meeting high school graduation criteria. Morgan State University, Towson State University, and the University of Maryland, College Park all have partnerships with Northwestern. Many of our young people go to HBCUs to further their education.

Northwestern's enrollment has grown beyond projections, and under Principal Kevin Simmons we can continue the school's traditions of growth and achievement.

In 1966, Northwestern High School opened its doors to 10th and 11th graders with a population of 1,000. Over the next 40 years, Northwestern graduated more than 20,000 students who have gone on to become successful and productive citizens.

Benjamin Franklin said, "An investment in knowledge pays the best interest." We should make the investment in renovating and improving — not closing — this important educational institution.

Michael Eugene Johnson, Northwestern High School Class of 1974, is a member of the Coalition to Save Northwestern and founder of the Paul Robeson Institute. His email is mikegojohnson@yahoo.com.

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