Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke, the Greater Homewood Community Corporation and the Waverly Elementary Middle PTO have asked the Baltimore City School Board to postpone the closure of Abbottston Elementary and the resulting zone expansion of Waverly Elementary Middle.
“We recommended a postponement until June 2017 to afford Abbottston and Waverly schools the opportunity to fulfill their well-founded projections of meeting capacity goals from within their individual attendance zones,” the group wrote in a letter to the board this morning, released by Clarke.
The School Board votes tonight on portfolio review recommendations, including the closure of Abbottston’s program and five other schools.
The school system maintains Abbottston is too small and its students would benefit from a larger program, and that the newly opened, but still under construction Waverly Elementary Middle is underutilized. They want to expand its zone substantially.
Abbottson is seeking to add a pre-K program, which will increase its utilization rate to 81%.
Waverly has 647 students enrolled – an 87 % utilization rate – and expects to add more when the school is completed in January, according to documents from Waverly’s PTO and Greater Homewood Community Corporation.
The school will also draw students citywide when it begins its advanced academic program, they argue.
Waverly parents and stakeholders say a larger zone will crowd the new school and potentially jeopardize an advanced academics program, which the school has been promised for years.
“Once you expand the zone, you have to take all the kids,” says Karen DeCamp, director of neighborhood programs for Greater Homewood.
Process not Transparent
The organization objects to the rezoning and feels City Schools’ process has not been transparent – specifically that the window for community input was too narrow and data on projected enrollment was not presented to stakeholders in the beginning.
“This started November 11. If you are going to have a five-week process to change a school zone, the community deserves to see the data on day one,” DeCamp said in an interview with The Brew. “Show us the rationale for the zone expansion or slow down.”
DeCamp says families feel blindsided.
“They build their lives around schools. They are buying homes in communities and putting their faith in the school system. We have to hold our institutions accountable,” she said. “It’s paternalistic for the board to tell us they know what’s in our best interest.”
In addition to Abbottston, Dr. Rayner Brown Elementary Middle, Heritage High School, Langston Hughes Elementary, Northeast Middle School, and W.E. B. DuBois High School are recommended for closure.
The School Board votes tonight at 6 p.m. on the administration’s recommendations. No public comment will taken at the meeting.