Renaissance Academy is facing closure again
Santelises would reconsider if a suitable location is found
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.