Uncertainty for students at city school choice fair

Terrell Carr and his mother, Niesha Carr, have loved his experience at William C. March Middle School. From the Arabic classes in which he's excelled to the quality of the instruction, both have nothing but good things to say about the school. And they are disappointed that it might close at the end of the year.

"It's kind of sad because it's the best school I've ever been to," said Terrell, a 13-year-old seventh-grader who was attending the fifth annual Baltimore City Public Schools Middle and High School Choice Fair, which brought the system's 64 middle and high schools together Saturday to showcase their offerings for parents and students.


William C. March Middle, along with Baltimore Rising Star Academy, Garrison Middle and Patapsco Elementary/Middle, will close at the end of the year if the school board approves the plan announced in November by CEO Andrés Alonso. In the next 10 years, the $2.4 billion facilities plan calls for closing 26 school buildings and upgrading 136 others.

The four schools recommended for 2012-2013 closures had building utilization rates between 20 percent and 50 percent and have also struggled academically, according to school officials. Fewer than 1,000 students will be affected by this year's proposed closures, officials said.


The plan was clearly on the minds of parents, students and staff of affected schools Saturday at the fair at the Baltimore Convention Center. Each school had a booth where staff members answered questions about courses, activities and other offerings.

"Where is he going to go from here?" Niesha Carr asked while standing in front of William C. March Middle's booth. "Where do I find a school that offers exactly what is offered here?"

The Carrs were searching for a new middle school to attend just in case their beloved school closes at the end of the year.

"I'm not pleased at all," Niesha Carr said. "I have a good relationship with the staff. They are accessible. They're there to talk. Today we've gone to three middle schools. None of them are really comparable. The only thing I can do is look at the options I have and make the best decision with what is offered."

Gloria Bell and George Iwashko, who greeted students and parents at the William C. March Middle booth, said they had been flooded with interest about their school, which feeds to the lauded City College.

"It's hard to be here promoting a school that is slated to be closed," said Bell, a science teacher.

"Our heart is there, but it is broken," added Iwashko, the school's counselor.

Employees working at the booth for Northwestern High, which under the plan would close in 2015-2016, declined to comment.


Jessica Moses and her older sister, Lia McGirt, were caught off guard when told Saturday that Northwestern High was in danger of closing. The two, who had just visited with staff from the school, seemed excited about the offerings there.

"I don't want this school to close," said Jessica, a 13-year-old eighth-grader at Thomas Jefferson Elementary School, who was particularly excited about the school's computer engineering classes.

"The school was impressive to me. They look like they have strong leadership," McGirt said.

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Back at the William C. March Middle booth, Bell and Iwashko had wrapped up another talk — this time with Lisa Wright and her 11-year-old daughter, Ariel Wilson.

"I think this school is good," said Ariel, a fifth-grader. "They are preparing us for high school."

Wright was also looking forward to joining the William C. March Middle community.


"I thought they were excellent," she said. "I wouldn't mind her going there."

Upon hearing that the school was in danger of closing, Wilson looked shocked.

"Really?" she said. "That's not right! They are building more prisons, but they are closing recreation centers and schools."