BHCA opposes effort to close Eutaw-Marshburn School

Theresa Marshburn was much more than a crossing guard for students bounding down Eutaw Street in the 60s. The community organizer and activist dedicated her life to serving and improving the lives of Baltimore youths and their families. In 1971 Eutaw Elementary was renamed Eutaw-Marshburn Elementary in Theresa Marshburn’s honor.

Bolton Hill Community Association’s board has voted to oppose the fast-track effort by Baltimore City Public Schools to close Eutaw-Marshburn Elementary School on Bolton Hill’s western border at the end of this school year, June 15.

After consulting with leaders of two adjacent community groups whose residents are most impacted by the closing, BHCA’s president, with board approval, is sending a letter to BCPS taking exception to the closure, announced on Nov. 9. The city’s Board of School Commissioners, made up of mayoral appointees, is to vote on Jan. 11.

Eutaw-Marshburn Elementary School 11 (EMES11) was built in 1965 during the Urban Renewal of the area, and is named for Theresa Marshburn, a beloved crossing guard from the community. BCPS has proposed returning the empty property to the City once the school is closed. The school faces Eutaw Place between Wilson and McMechen streets. It also houses the Crispus Attucks Recreation Center.

The school has been under-performing and under-enrolled for the last several years. At EMES11, 99 percent of the students qualify for free or assisted breakfast and lunch. According to the notice, “a sustainable elementary program is about 400 – 500 students” because the school system receives funding on a per-student basis, so smaller schools suffer lower funding, leading to a shortage of teachers and resources. But many schools operate just fine at a population of 250.

The recommendation splits the school three ways, revising the zoning to send some kids to Dorothy I. Height Elementary, some to Historic Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Elementary and the rest to Furman Templeton Preparatory Academy. All are a half mile away from EMES11.

The school was scheduled and due for a renovation, replacing windows, installing AC and other upgrades. But at a hearing in the auditorium on Nov. 22, representatives from BCPS Facilities Design & Construction said, “There are cracks in the skin of the building, so we can’t put in new windows.” The official recommendation reads thus: “The Eutaw-Marshburn building has serious structural weaknesses related to the exterior of the building, which cause frequent leaking and flooding. The building also needs a new HVAC system and new windows, which cannot be completed without addressing the structural issues.”

Neighbors tried to get a meeting with the representatives to walkabout and see the cracks and leaking but BCPS declined. City council member Eric Costello appeared at one of the two meetings at the school for parents and neighbors and spoke against the closure.

The school recently welcomed a new Principal, Karen Starliper, who came on board in early November. She’s energetic, smart and engaging. She employs social media to advertise the good things that are happening at the school and the parents love her. Neighbors and volunteers have been impressed.

The big points:

  1. BCPS made a promise years ago to renovate and now they say they can’t.
  2. Doing this to families now is unconscionable.
  3. Kids crossing North Avenue or Pennsylvania Avenue at rush hour is insane.
  4. The recommendation made incorrect assumptions about future development and population.

The parents also lamented the likely loss of the Judy Center, an early childhood education program out of Promise Heights, the network of social workers provided by The University of Maryland.

If the buildings on site are left vacant, there is a danger that the abandoned three acres will present a host of new problems in addition to being a huge gap in the community.

Bolton Hill residents interested in preventing this travesty should make their perspectives known in writing, sent to the school board before 5 p.m. on Jan. 3. Written comments must include full name, address, phone number and designation as neighbor or community partner. Send to: Baltimore City Board of School Commissioners, 200 E. North Ave., Room 406, Baltimore, Maryland 21202, or email portfoliorecommendations@bcps.k12.md.us. Additional information at http://www.baltimorecityschools.org.

Monty Howard

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