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Hopkins-Henderson holds forum for East Baltimore Community Groups

By ELI WALLACH | September 11, 2014

East Baltimore community members gathered at the Henderson-Hopkins school on Saturday at a forum to discuss how community groups can utilize the school’s shared space in the future.

The forum, sponsored by the Annie Casey Foundation and moderated by consulting firm PlusUltra founder Leroy Nunery, included speakers from both Henderson-Hopkins and the University.

The Johns Hopkins School of Education, in partnership with Morgan State University’s School of Education and Urban Studies, is responsible for Henderson-Hopkins’s operations, which, according to the school’s website, “has the extraordinary opportunity to create a high-performing school that serves a diverse, mixed-income community of students, families and teachers.”

Meeting attendees discussed issues revolving around which organizations should receive priority in using the space and at what cost. The meeting attendees agreed that local organizations should have priority.

Established in the fall of 2012, the Henderson-Hopkins school is owned by the non-profit East Baltimore Community School, Inc. (EBCS). The school sits on a new $53 million campus that includes a 90,000 square-foot facility on a seven-acre campus. The Hopkins-Henderson school itself was built with the original purpose of becoming a kindergarten-through-eighth-grade educational establishment.

The school elaborates on its mission on its website.

“Henderson-Hopkins pursues the most contemporary, effective approaches to meeting the needs of students, their families, and the community. The school takes a holistic approach to developing the potential of each student, one that focuses on the behavioral, cognitive and physical health of the child. It emphasizes individualized learning, and family and community involvement supported by wrap-around services,” the school’s mission statement reads.

Adjacent to the campus is the new Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Early Childhood Center, a $10 million building which occupies 28,000 square feet.

The neighborhood around the school, located just north of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine’s campus, has been undergoing an urban renewal project since 2000, when the U.S. Government, the State of Maryland, the City of Baltimore, the Johns Hopkins Institutions and many more organizations came together to form East Baltimore Development, Inc (EBDI).

Since then, EBDI has been working to change the East Baltimore neighborhood, once known for its high crime rates and drug use, into a mixed-use, mixed-income community. The project has overcome much scrutiny in the past decade, however, because it has displaced more than 750 families in its mission to develop the land that Henderson-Hopkins now sits on.

As a benchmark of the EBDI project, the community holds high expectations for Henderson-Hopkins school and its ability to serve the need of the neighborhood.

“Residents of East Baltimore have been patient as EBDI, like developments throughout the city, struggled during the Great Recession. Although other amenities are on the way, Henderson-Hopkins, arguably, is the first project that provides a direct benefit to the people who live and work in East Baltimore,” Andy Frank, special advisor to the EBCS president on economic development and secretary to EBCS, wrote in an email to The News-Letter.

As a part of the committee that planned Saturday’s event, Frank was very impressed by the turnout and level of engagement at the meeting.

“From the beginning, the school was designed to promote the shared use of the auditorium, gymnasium, library and Family Resource Center,” Frank wrote. “On Saturday, that concept really began to take shape.  I joked at the event that we would be happy to pay higher utility bills if it meant that we kept the lights on for community uses in the evenings, weekends and in the summer.”

Frank also emphasized the school’s pivotal role in the development of its community.

“Over the next three years, more than 300 new homes will be built in EBDI,” Frank wrote. “Many families will be drawn to this neighborhood because they share the vision of the multiple stakeholders who helped make Henderson-Hopkins possible.  The success of Henderson-Hopkins and EBDI as a vibrant, economically diverse community are inextricably linked.”

No decisions have yet been made concerning which local groups in particular can utilize the new facility and how they can use the space. These decisions will be made following further conversations among the school’s affiliates and the community groups in question.

“I suspect that the EBCS board, which meets in October, will want to balance the benefits of predictable and efficiency with the value of ongoing community oversight,” Frank wrote in the email.

“Exactly how that happens is still an open question. Whatever the process, we can’t anticipate everything; there will be a role for good old fashion human judgment. The final guidelines are not set in concrete; we’ll need to learn and adapt as we go along.”

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