Update on Langston Hughes Elementary, a closing Baltimore school
Langston Hughes elementary school is in the Park Heights section of Baltimore. It was a small school with a devoted principal, teachers, and community. The building, unlike many others in the city, had air conditioning, technology, and contained murals and art produced by students. It was a welcoming place to be. In the spring of 2015, the community rallied to support the city’s decision to close it, but failed. The city stuck with its decision which it based on under-utilization and under-performance. In a June 2015 letter, the city reiterated its decision to close the school. They were operating under a commitment to close 26 schools mandated by the state of Maryland.
Today, young people who would have attended Langston Hughes, go back to school on buses provided by the district. They will go to one of two elementary schools in the area that are slated for renovation. The schools will be under construction while students attend them. They will have to make new friends, find new connections with teachers, and deal with more students in their classrooms. This may be the least of their worries as they may also face health risks in a school under construction, a safety risk among students who may or may not welcome them.
The teachers and principal will have to incorporate these new students into their school, and teachers will have more students to instruct. All of these changes can impact the environment of the school and the ability of kids to learn.
There is also the school building that Langston Hughes Elementary is vacating. What will happen to it? Will it remain vacant? The community would like to see a community center, but there has been no commitment to that plan.
This is what we might call the collateral damage when we close schools. The video below conveys the need to consider this collateral damage. While it is too late to save schools like Langston Hughes, we need to think about what is next? What happens to the children? What happens to the neighborhood?