Nearly 400 people gathered in the auditorium of Henderson Hopkins School, Feb. 10, to officially cut the ribbon on the first new public school to open in East Baltimore in more than 20 years.

Among those in attendance were Johns Hopkins University President Ronald J. Daniels, Gov. Martin O’Malley, Rep. Elijah Cummings and several elected officials.

The $43 million, K-through-8 elementary and middle public/private school represents a vision the city hasn’t seen in more than 20 years. Officials honored those who made its opening possible, and praised the school—already in operation at another location for four years—for having increased students’ reading and math scores since opening its doors.

“We started over 10 years ago working on this project and it has been a long journey,” Cummings said. “We wanted to have a world-class school for our children. We are changing the trajectory of destinies—that’s what this is all about.”

The school first opened in 2009 as the East Baltimore Community School, located in a set of modular, temporary classrooms several blocks away. Workers broke ground in June 2012 on the school’s new 90,000-square-foot facility, which opened to students in January ahead of the official ribbon-cutting.

“With the determination from educators committed to its success, the school was driven on an unshakeable belief that every child in this country has the fundamental right to a great education,” Daniels said.

He said Henderson Hopkins is a place where educators can unleash the creativity that was once confined by classroom trailers.

O’Malley said the event was the first time he’s seen leaders from all over Baltimore, both Black and White, come together for such a noble purpose.

“There is nothing harder in this world than starting something new,” O’Malley said to the assembled students. “All of you have shown the courage to not only start something new but to create something better.”

Other speakers included Sen. Barbara Mikulski, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, City Council President Bernard “Jack” Young, Tisha Edwards, interim CEO of Baltimore City Public Schools; Ellen Heller, chair of the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation and Patrick McCarthy, CEO and president of the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

“We have a new school after 20 years, and our kids will now have a school where they will feel safe,” Young told the AFRO.

“We want to see these types of schools all over Baltimore,” he said. “We just want to give our students the tools they need—good clean buildings, working water fountains, great cafeterias and great teachers.”

The enrollment process for Henderson Hopkins will be based on five priorities, with the first being a lottery drawing for families living in or who may have relocated from the East Baltimore Development Initiative area. The second priority is extended to siblings of children already enrolled in the school. The remaining priorities are given to students selected on a lottery basis if there are any openings remaining.

The school has a band and choir; both performed at the ceremony and received standing ovations. Following the official program, guests were invited on a guided tour of the seven-acre campus that showcased the classrooms, learning centers, the gymnasium and the library.

“I knew this school was a fit for my son and family once I toured the school,” said Yolanda Bailey, parent of Camren Harding, a third grader. “He has a lot of friends, there are a lot of people here to help. The teachers are great, the staff is great and it’s a wonderful experience.”

The school was named after Elmer A. Henderson, the first African-American assistant superintendent of Baltimore City Public Schools, and the partnership with Johns Hopkins.