Reporting Gigi Barnett
BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Students and alumni of a Baltimore City high school are up in arms over plans to close their school under a broad restructuring plan.
As Gigi Barnett reports, school leaders had placed Northwestern High School on the chopping block a few years ago until they decided to save it. Now, it is back on a shutdown list.
Northwestern High is one of 26 city schools on a 10-year shutdown plan, unless the alumni association and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference have their say.
“What we need to do is put our children first, quite frankly, and invest in the school because progress has already been made,” said Reverend C.D. Witherspoon of the SCLC.
The organization’s rally kicked off an aggressive grassroots effort called Operation Hands-Off Northwestern.
The district said the aging high school isn’t what it used to be with a large number of students and programs.
Former and current students agree, but they also ask, “Why not make it what it was?”
“There is a lot of history here,” said student, Sean Christian, “Alumni we have had here, Sheila Dixon. I think this would be a terrible thing to do, to shut the shcool down.”
The district says closing the school is part of a $2 billion master plan to save cash. School leaders say low-capacity schools like Northwestern would cost millilions to renovate and the better option is to downsize and consolidate, but the list is not a done deal.
“It’s a proposal that we can modify after we hear from the community and based upon the feedback from the board, but it’s a plan that has been done with enormous communifty effort,” said Dr. Andres Alonso, the CEO of Baltimore City Public Schools.
But the SCLC claims not every voice has been heard. The school isn’t set to close until 2015 and that leaves plenty of time to keep rallying.
“The entire community should be concerned about taking away an institution from a community,” said Witherspoon.
The district said one option for Northwestern High School is to merge with nearby Forest Park High school, which is also a low-capacity school. Officials say that is a good option because many of the students that attend Northwestern live closer to Forest Park.
Only 65 percent of space in city schools is being used, but after the ten-year plan, that will jump to 77 percent.