Re­nais­sance Acad­emy is fac­ing clo­sure again

San­telises would re­con­sider if a suit­able lo­ca­tion is found

Baltimore Sun - - MARYLAND - By Erica L. Green Bal­ti­more Sun re­porter Andrea K. McDaniels con­trib­uted to this ar­ti­cle. erica.green@balt­sun.com twit­ter.com/Eri­caLG

City schools ad­min­is­tra­tors are rec­om­mend­ing clos­ing Re­nais­sance Acad­emy, the trou­bled West Bal­ti­more high school that saw three stu­dents killed last school year.

The pro­posal is part of a broader plan to close or merge sev­eral schools pre­sented to the city school board Tues­day.

Bal­ti­more City Schools CEO Sonja San­telises rec­om­mended that Re­nais­sance close af­ter the cur­rent school year but said she would with­draw the pro­posal if the dis­trict and com­mu­nity part­ners could find a new lo­ca­tion for the school.

The school is home to Seeds of Prom­ise, a men­tor­ing pro­gram that pairs black male men­tors with about 140 stu­dents. The pro­gram was re­cently ex­panded us­ing funds from a $350,000 grant awarded to the school by the U.S. Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion this year.

Board mem­bers are sched­uled to vote on the rec­om­men­da­tion next month.

Re­nais­sance, housed on the third floor of the Booker T. Wash­ing­ton Mid­dle School, is the only high school in the Druid Height­sUp­ton neigh­bor­hood.

A 17-year- old Re­nais­sance stu­dent stabbed a class­mate in a sci­ence class­room last Novem­ber. The stu­dent later died. School ad­min­is­tra­tors said the stab­bing and the shoot­ing deaths of two other youths who at­tended the school have left Re­nais­sance stu­dents trau­ma­tized.

San­telises said this year should be the school’s last in its cur­rent lo­ca­tion.

“That build­ing, even be­fore the tragedy, was a very chal­leng­ing space,” she said. “If you add the tragedy that oc­curred, it em­pha­sizes the need for stu­dents and staff to be out of that space.”

The Univer­sity of Mary­land School of So­cial Work, which has de­voted staff and re­sources to Re­nais­sance — and se­cured hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars in grant fund­ing — was among the part­ners to in­ter­vene last year to save the school from clos­ing.

San­telises said she has been work­ing with part­ners in­clud­ing the Univer­sity of Mary­land to find a new space for Re­nais­sance, but some leads have fallen through.

Rep­re­sen­ta­tives with Prom­ise Heights, an ini­tia­tive at the School of So­cial Work that places so­cial work­ers at Re­nais­sance, said they strongly dis­agree with San­telises’ rec­om­men­da­tion and have urged her to change her mind.

“We are work­ing with other part­ners to try to find an al­ter­na­tive lo­ca­tion within the neigh­bor­hood,” said Rachel Done­gan, the as­so­ciate di­rec­tor of Prom­ise Heights. “We be­lieve that the stu­dents are deeply con­nected to the adults in the pro­gram, es­pe­cially the men­tors, and we’re very con­cerned about their so­cial-emo­tional health and phys­i­cal safety if they are sep­a­rated from those adults.”

The rec­om­men­da­tion to close Re­nais­sance is part of an an­nual re­view to de­ter­mine which schools in the dis­trict will Bal­ti­more’s Re­nais­sance Acad­emy high school was the scene of a fa­tal stab­bing dur­ing the last school year, and two other stu­dents were killed in sep­a­rate in­ci­dents. close, merge, or re­lo­cate. The de­ci­sions are guided by fac­tors such as aca­demic per­for­mance, en­roll­ment and, in re­cent years, a 10-year-plan to con­sol­i­date, re­build and ren­o­vate schools.

San­telises also rec­om­mends clos­ing three other schools in 2017.

Sa­muel F. B. Morse El­e­men­tary School would close in the sum­mer and move into a new build­ing with Fred­er­ick El­e­men­tary School.

North­west­ern High School, which cur­rently shares space with For­est Park High School, would close at the end of the year and move into a ren­o­vated For­est Park build­ing.

Bal­ti­more I.T. Acad­emy is be­ing rec­om­mended for clo­sure be­cause it has strug­gled aca­dem­i­cally and seen de­clin­ing en­roll- ment.

San­telises said she would meet with Re­nais­sance stake­hold­ers this week to ex­plore op­tions.

A meet­ing at which stu­dents and par­ents will be pro­vided more in­for­ma­tion about the clo­sure and can give feed­back to school of­fi­cials is sched­uled for Nov. 16.

The school board has sched­uled a spe­cial ses­sion for the pub­lic on all the rec­om­mended clo­sures at 6 p.m. on Nov. 22. A pub­lic hear­ing is sched­uled for 6 p.m. on Nov. 29. Both meet­ings will take place at school dis­trict head­quar­ters on North Av­enue.

KARL MER­TON FERRON/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

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