Protest targets Baltimore school closures

District blames dropping enrollment

BALTIMORE, Md. (WMAR) - They are free to laugh and play in the middle of one of Baltimore's most crime-ridden neighborhoods, yet plans to shut down William Pinderhughes Elementary/Middle School in West Baltimore may force them elsewhere next fall, and Hope Crosby isn't happy about it.

"They didn't say academic performance or violence in the school,” said Crosby, “They say attendance, but I think Baltimore City School Board should have got together to find out ways that we could bring more children in than shut the school down."

RELATED: Protest planned after six Baltimore schools up for closure

Pinderhughes is one of six schools targeted for closure, and     City Schools CEO Dr. Sonja Santelises says its declining enrollment is at the heart of it.

"The challenge for that particular school is with approximately 250... 270 students in a K-8 school, there are just activities and opportunities that those young people don't have," said Santelises.
    
Too few for school plays or other programs available at larger schools, but that means sending the students to neighboring schools and that Sandtown could lose its only middle school.
    
It also means students may have to walk farther to school navigating unfamiliar streets putting their safety at risk.

"It's hard and if I had a perfect world and a magic wand and just a trillion dollars lying around somewhere, I would want a school in every single neighborhood that was walking distance for every single young person," said Santelises.
    
Parents say they learned of the possible closures in letters sent out last week as they prepared for the Thanksgiving holiday.

"I think it's predetermined,” said Crosby, “That's what frustrates me that you're having these parents voice their opinion when you've already made your decision."

But the CEO says nothing is a done deal.
    
She says just last year, Renaissance Academy was slated to close, but with help from community partners like the University of Maryland and the Baltimore Ravens, the school was spared.

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