Baltimore communities protest proposed school closures

A proposal to close six city schools is under fire from students, teachers and communities.

Baltimore City School Commissioners got an earful Tuesday night from students, parents and community members about the plan to close six schools amid low enrollment and costruction plans.

City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke and many others donned a red "A+" cap for Abbottston Elementary and a white "#SaveHeritage" T-shirt for the high school in the old Lake Clifton building — both are recommended for closure.

Clarke and others gave hours of testimony at a school board hearing on behalf of Abbottston, Heritage and Langston Hughes elementary schools. The board is also considering recommendations to close Dr. Rayner Browne Elementary/Middle, Northeast Middle and W.E.B. DuBois High.

Cheryl White, a teacher at Heritage, said her students have "planted their feet" and are "soaring academically."

"I feel like that's about to be taken from them," she said.

In pleading with commissioners not to close Abbottston, Karen Mpako Ngosso, a fifth-grade teacher at the Waverly school, said she chose to send her son there because it was better than other schools in the city.

"It's a diamond in a sea of glass," she said.

George Mitchell, the president of the Langston Hughes Community Association, told the board members a story of a young man who succeeded despite being raised in Terrace Heights, which he described as one of the city's poorest, roughest neighborhoods. Going to Langston Hughes "gave me hope," he said. "They pointed at me and said, 'You're going to be somebody.'"

The school system has argued that it must act responsibly with its limited funding by closing schools that are too big for their enrollments and too costly to operate. David Stone, the vice chair of the school board, said the commissioners appreciate the concerns of the communities, but he added that if other schools were on the chopping block, those communities "would be here in green hats" protesting the proposal.

"This is not as cut-and-dry as we would like it to be," Stone said.

The next hearing is scheduled for Dec. 9 at 4:30 p.m. at the city school board's North Avenue headquarters.

Clarification: Karen Mpako Ngosso is a fifth-grade teacher at Abbottston Elementary.

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