Wolfe Street Academy, which has been a high-performing charter school in East Baltimore for more than a decade, was rewarded Tuesday night with an eight-year extension of the contract to operate the school, the longest charter renewal ever given by the Baltimore school board.
Three charter schools — Tunbridge Public Charter School, Govans Elementary and City Neighbors High School — received five-year renewals of their charters. Lillie May Carroll Jackson School, The Reach! Partnership School and Baltimore Collegiate School for Boys qualified to operate for three more years.
At its meeting Tuesday, the school board also closed NACA II Freedom and Democracy Academy, a sixth through 12th grade charter school near Northern Parkway in the eastern part of the city. The school has been one of the lowest-performing in the city and can still appeal the decision of the school board. The school will close after this school year.
The board also took action to close two existing public schools. Sarah M. Roach Elementary School, which has only 185 students, will close this coming summer and students will be transferred to Mary E. Rodman Elementary. In the summer of 2021, the school system will close George W. F. McMechen High School for students in special education and transfer them to the nearest special needs school to their house that can accommodate them.
Wolfe Street Academy has been run by the Baltimore Curriculum Project, which took over an existing public school, and turned it into a successful charter. The school serves mostly Hispanic and immigrant children and has had the same principal for 15 years.
The school system has shown increasing interest in having successful charter operators take over existing schools that have been chronically underperforming, said schools chief Sonja Santelises. Wolfe Street, she said, has “embraced the power" that a high-functioning school can "play in the revitalization” of an area of the city.
The process of renewing their operating agreement with the school system can be long and complicated for schools. To go through it frequently takes away time from other activities. “I am thrilled. It provides such a sense of stability" for the families, the staff and the community to know that the school will be around for eight more year," said principal Mark Gaither.