The Baltimore City Public School (BCPS) Board delayed a vote on closing West Baltimore’s Renaissance Academy this week.  But several other schools, including Northwestern High School, weren’t so lucky.

Before a room of emotional neighborhood supporters and alumni, the school board voted to close the Baltimore IT Academy, Grove Park Elementary/Middle School and Samuel F.B. Morse Elementary School, in addition to Northwestern High.  All closures will be effective in Summer 2017.

Baltimore City Schools’ CEO Sonya Santelises tells the AFRO she is trying to keep Renaissance Academy school community intact. (Courtesy photo)

Baltimore City Schools’ CEO Sonya Santelises tells the AFRO she is trying to keep Renaissance Academy school community intact. (Courtesy photo)

The board deferred a decision on the fate of Renaissance Academy until Jan. 24   as other options are being explored for the school, according to Baltimore City Schools’ CEO, Sonya Santelises.

“A number of partners have stepped up to the challenge and knew this was not about the school system just randomly wanting to close the school, but to do what was best for kids,” Santelises told the AFRO.

“I took very seriously the advisement of partners in the faith community and partners at the University of Maryland about the social-emotional needs of the young people. I am very confident that we have a number of proposals that will keep Renaissance as a school community intact,” she said.

Former BCPS CEO Gregory Thornton threatened to close Renaissance Academy in 2015 after a student was stabbed inside a classroom at the school last Nov.  In a separate incident that same month, a loaded handgun was confiscated from a student involved in an altercation at the school.  Community leaders appealed successfully to keep the school open.

Maryland Delegate Sandy Rosenberg (District 41) led the charge for advocates that appealed to keep Grove Park and Northwestern open. In a presentation to the school board, Rosenberg hinted that the process used to recommend school closures was not fully open to members of the community.

“On very short notice we have been asked to defend Grove Park,” Rosenberg said.

“If the board decides to close either of these schools what comes next needs to be a very transparent process,” he implored.

“Any time I see schools closing, that really hurts my heart,” said Shawon Reed, who passionately appealed to keep Northwestern open.

“As far as Northwestern High School, if there is anything you can do to save that school, it is a staple of that community. When you close the school, look at what happens to the community,” Reed said.

The board voted unanimously to close Samuel F.B. Morse Elementary, Baltimore IT Academy and Northwestern High. The vote to close Grove Park Elementary/Middle was 8-1.

Michelle Harris Bondima, who was recently appointed to the School Board in October 2016, said the decision to close community schools was painful and difficult for her and fellow board members.

“People on this board are very concerned and we care. We live in Baltimore,” said Bondima.

“This is very emotional for me.  But when you do the research you have to remove that emotion and look at what’s good for children and the community.”

Northwestern High is scheduled to merge with Forest Park High School, now undergoing renovations in accordance with the BCPS’s 21st Century School Buildings Plan. Samuel F.B. Morse students will be rezoned to attend Frederick Elementary School.  The Calvin M. Rodwell Elementary/Middle school zone will be expanded to include Grove Park students.