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Canton has a vibrant public school; come join us

<p>Baltimore, MD-- March 30, 2015--Matt Hornbeck, principal of Hampstead Hill Academy in east Baltimore, stands outside the school as students arrive in the morning.&nbsp; Barbara Haddock Taylor/Baltimore Sun</p>

Baltimore, MD-- March 30, 2015--Matt Hornbeck, principal of Hampstead Hill Academy in east Baltimore, stands outside the school as students arrive in the morning.  Barbara Haddock Taylor/Baltimore Sun

(Barbara Haddock Taylor / Baltimore Sun)

In his op-ed last on Saturday, Canton resident Roland Moskal mourned the death of his old school, Canton P.S. 230, and the network of childhood connections it supported in the neighborhood (“Growing up and growing old in Canton,” Jan. 27). Ten blocks to the west, Hampstead Hill Academy fosters the community he seeks. HHA is the epicenter of young civic life, just as it has been since its founding in 1893.

We are a dedicated group of Hampstead Hill parents, and it may surprise Mr. Moskal to learn that our children are actually living his childhood dreams. When the weather gets above 50, before homework and dinner, you can find us communing on our stoops as our children take over the block.

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They scrawl in chalk, perform original plays, build LEGO castles and invent street dramas all their own. They create their own magic, but we are no urban myth. Although we may not be as large in number as in decades past, we are here, and we believe in and defend the right to a Baltimore childhood.

Those rooftop decks that may appear painfully upper crust for what was once a working class neighborhood, for many of us do not represent a “penthouse” but rather a “play pen” in the sky that creates space where we can incubate our little humans before we let them loose on the world. Our front yard is Patterson Park where our lives entangle with other children and families from all over the city.

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Mr. Moskal is right that there is an intergenerational disconnect. We who have moved in don’t always know the heritage of this space we have come to love, though we gather stories from our older neighbors of corner stores and candy shops that bookended our blocks. Of cod cakes and tomato fights that flavored their own childhood. In homage, we block off our streets every year to continue the traditions of the block party, to play and dance with our new and veteran residents.

Mr. Moskal is also right that this is a life that seems under threat. Too many of our neighbors have already fled with their little humans. Those of us who remain, though we love this city in all its charm and quirkiness, have had the whispered conversations about how long we can stay amid the growing and encroaching violence. Violence that has taken root and long disrupted the lives of children in less protected neighborhoods.

Still, we long to stay. Long to make it work. We defy family members out of state who don’t understand the charm of living side by side. We defend our parenting choices to friends who tout back yards and driveways. We have each other to lean on and laugh with as we collectively parent our fierce little tribe of children.

We would invite those in Mr. Moskal’s generation to mend these rifts along with us. Walk with us on an Audubon field trip. Clap with us at a community concert. You can even bingo with us at our annual B3 fundraiser. Let us connect the story of our Baltimore elders with the story of our Baltimore children. And, Mr. Moskal, please know that hopes of seeing PS 230 thrive again are not so far flung. You could lend your voice to the lobbying efforts for HHA to take over that shell of a building and expand our middle school there. It was after all the principal at HHA who texted us your op-ed at 10:30 on Saturday morning, inviting a chorus of parents and teachers to respond.

We heard you. Can you hear us? Calling from a few blocks away? Our stoop lives. Our school remains. Our children lift their voices...and our city along with them.

Barbara Dziedzic, Baltimore

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