Five Baltimore schools face closure at the end of the school year, including an elementary school serving children who live in the Penn-North neighborhood and two charter schools.
City schools CEO Gregory Thornton's proposed closures were presented to the school board Tuesday night. Thornton is also seeking turn over four unused school buildings to the city and to expand two existing schools to relieve overcrowding. He also announced five- and three-year contract renewals for 12 charter schools.
Schools recommended for closure are Maritime Industries Academy High School, Baltimore Community High School and Westside Elementary School. Two charter schools, Roots and Branches and the Maryland Academy of Technology & Health Sciences, were recommended to lose their contracts.
Such recommendations are made annually, based on factors such as academic performance, enrollment and, in recent years, whether a building is being utilized enough to keep it open.
Thornton's recommendations will be the subject of public hearings in coming months. The school board will vote in January on whether to accept them.
Del. Antonio Hayes said that in the case of Westside Elementary in Penn-North, there are compelling reasons to keep the school open. He argued that a community that has lost much recently, including the closure of its recreation center, should not now lose its school.
He told the board the school is one of two anchor institutions for Penn-North, which was a center of the April rioting. The other anchor is a "thriving drug treatment center," he said.
"What [residents] hear is we're turning our backs on a community that is already hurting and striving," Hayes said. "You can't say both — that you love our city but do this devastation to the neighborhood that needs this elementary school so bad."
Under Thornton's plan, Westside Elementary is slated to merge with another elementary school in a new building.
Maritime Industries will close after an attempt to move the school from Northeast Baltimore to Cherry Hill failed. The school has experienced low enrollment and low attendance.
Officials said Baltimore Community High School is being closed for poor performance.
A recommendation was made to build an addition to Commodore John Rodgers Elementary/Middle School and to Highlandtown Elementary/Middle to help alleviate overcrowding in Southeast Baltimore.
Earlier Tuesday, Thornton informed another school community in West Baltimore — Renaissance Academy High School — that he had reversed an initial recommendation to close the school. He said that decision was a result of the school's commitment to improve in the next year.
The reversal came as the school's community partner, the University of Maryland Baltimore School of Social Work, mobilized to protest the closure of Renaissance Academy — the only high school in the Druid Heights-Upton community. The University of Maryland secured $720,000 in federal funding to help the school.
"The Renaissance community came together in short order to rally support for the school," said Rachel Donegan, program director of the UMD's Promise Heights initiative. "We thank Dr. Thornton for acknowledging the community's involvement with the school and we look forward to working with him."
The district recommended to sever ties with MATHS charter because a review found that it had trouble with its governance structure and operator capacity, and general poor academic performance. Roots and Branches has similar challenges, the district said.
In the case of Westside Elementary and Baltimore Community High School, the closures were expedited from 2018 and 2017, respectively.
City schools slated to close
•Maritime Industries Academy High School
•Baltimore Community High School
•Westside Elementary School
•Roots and Branches Charter School
•Maryland Academy of Technology & Health Sciences Charter