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Education

Series of town hall meetings to be held ahead of renovations of five Baltimore City high schools

The Baltimore City school system is preparing to renovate five of its largest high schools housed in three buildings beginning in 2024.

The school system announced Thursday that it plans to hold a series of online community meetings beginning Oct. 18 for the families of 7,000 students attending Baltimore City College, Western High School, Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, Frederick Douglass High School and the separate public day school Joseph C. Briscoe Academy.

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The three buildings that house those schools are among the oldest in the city school system and are slated for significant overhauls in the next five years.

Baltimore City Public Schools CEO Dr. Sonja Santelises talks about the plan for renovating five Baltimore City high schools during a news conference at Baltimore City Public Schools Board headquarters.

Renovations are slated to begin for Frederick Douglass and City College in 2024 and for Poly and Western in 2025.

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While the schools are being renovated, students will learn from “swing spaces” housed in nearby elementary and middle schools, whose own students are moving into new buildings.

The community meetings will review each high school’s selected option from the feasibility study and discuss logistics such as how teaching, special education services and transportation will happen during renovations.

The renovations will mark the second phase of the school system’s $1 billion 21st Century School Buildings program, which is managed by the Maryland Stadium Authority. The renovations are funded with $400 million from the Built To Learn Act authorized by the Maryland General Assembly in 2020.

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During the program’s first phase construction took place on 28 schools in neighborhoods that were historically underserved, city schools CEO Sonja Santelises said at a news conference Thursday.

Designs will be drawn next for Frederick Douglass and City College, officials said.

“Structural improvements to these large, older buildings are significantly more expensive than renovations in buildings serving the lower grades,” Santelises said. “We would not be able to get this critically important job done without these additional funds being provided.”

The school system’s CEO was joined by Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott, several members of city council and the schools’ principals. Scott, who graduated from Mergenthaler Vocational-Technical High School, said he remembered being in an air conditioned classroom for the first time in ninth grade.

“We know the most important thing anyone will ever know about you in Baltimore is where you went to high school,” Scott said. “We believe that every young person deserves a school with state-of-the-art technology that provides classroom and learning spaces designed for a 21st century education.”

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Scott graduated from Mergenthaler in 2002 and was enrolled there when the school underwent renovations. He recalled how students remained in the classrooms while construction was underway.

The Baltimore City school system has worked for years to address a chronic backlog of maintenance and infrastructure problems costing billions of dollars. In addition to the funding from the Built To Learn Act, the system and other jurisdictions around the state are receiving an infusion of cash this fall thanks to the landmark education reform called the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future.


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