Parents, community seeking school library Effort: Highlandtown Elementary No. 237 is starting a campaign to give the school a missing necessity -- a library.


PARENTS, TEACHERS, clergy and community organizers got together this summer and drew up a list of priorities for their school, Baltimore's Highlandtown Elementary No. 237.

One by one, they discussed the things No. 237 lacks. It has no gymnasium, no auditorium, no cafeteria. (Lunches are shipped in from the other Highlandtown Elementary, No. 215, a few blocks away.) Its playground is rudimentary.

But most glaring, because it's first among what Principal Yvonne Garner calls the "don't haves" at 231 S. Eaton St., is a library.

Yes, read it again: The school has no library. It once had a library, but the books were destroyed in a flood a couple of years ago while they were in storage in the basement. (Sound familiar? The same calamity befell the collection of Cross Country Elementary School.)

Besides, No. 237, with its original building dating to 1926 and a "relocatable" (though it sits on a cement foundation) added last year, is chock full of kids; there's no room for a library. So the students, while the weather is nice, take monthly walks to the Pratt branch on Eastern Avenue, six blocks away.

"That's no way to do it," says Garner, who keeps a set of encyclopedias -- with the "B" volume missing -- in a cabinet in her office. "We need a library. We need books."

And so the group decided to make a book drive -- more accurately, a library drive -- the No. 1 priority for School 237. As one parent put it, "It would be nice to have a decent playground, but my child isn't going to learn to read on the playground."

Parents, teachers, area clergy, business leaders and the South East Community Organization (SECO) are among those involved the campaign. Maria Brooks, president of the Parent-Teacher Organization, says the first job will be to accumulate the library books that are required reading -- books to supplement the new reading textbooks that arrived this summer.

Brooks says shelving and carts, along with new and used books, would allow each of the school's 14 teachers to have individual classroom libraries that could be moved about the school or combined, depending on needs.

Eventually, says Tana Paddock, a SECO education organizer, No. 237 wants -- and deserves -- its own library, either at the school or nearby. "This is the only school in the Southeast without a library," Paddock says. "Some schools have no librarians, but you have to have a library before you can have a librarian." (No. 237 also has no music or art teachers.)

You wonder how No. 237 could get in such a pickle. After all, it's been in operation for 72 years; even in its heyday, the community might have demanded essentials -- a library is not a luxury -- that suburbanites take for granted.

Sandra L. Wighton, Southeast area executive officer for the city schools, says part of the problem has been years of uncertainty. The school was scheduled to be closed, then it wasn't. A plan to merge it with Highlandtown Middle School never got off the ground.

Tutors ready for 36th year

The tutoring program at Brown Memorial Park Avenue Presbyterian Church began its 36th year Wednesday with 65 volunteers, ranging in age from 19 to 86, gathered at the Bolton Hill church for orientation. They'll soon be tutoring kids at Eutaw-Marshburn and Mount Royal elementary schools.

Gail Parker, director of the program for 15 years, believes the Brown Memorial Tutoring Program is the oldest in the nation. It's also one of the few that brings the kids to the tutors, shuttling children -- many with reading disabilities -- from the schools to the church for once-a-week, one-on-one sessions.

Parker is the only paid person in the program, and she receives a small stipend.

Brown Memorial is always looking for tutors, says Parker. Call 410-523-1542.

A gift from a stranger

One of the reasons she enrolled at the Greater Homewood Adult Literacy Program, 58-year-old Mamie Barnett said in this space two weeks ago, is to be able to read the Bible. "I've tried," she said, "but I've got a way to go. I'd like that."

Last week a package from an anonymous source arrived at Greater Homewood's offices on North Charles Street. Inside was a Bible.

Pub Date: 9/20/98

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