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An Educational Milestone in the East Baltimore Transformation

PHOTO: The East Baltimore Revitalization Project will soon mark a milestone as it opens a new school.
PHOTO: The East Baltimore Revitalization Project will soon mark a milestone as it opens a new school.
December 19, 2013

BALTIMORE – What was once a blighted community in Maryland is transforming, and making progress in its goal to bring a better quality of life to vulnerable children and families.

The East Baltimore Revitalization Project began more than 10 years ago, when the area was largely vacant.

Sophie Dagenais, director of the Baltimore Civic Site with the Annie E. Casey Foundation, says the foundation joined the effort because it wanted to reduce the negative outcomes associated with children and families living in poverty.

"We wanted to recreate in the neighborhood a vibrant, mixed-income community of opportunity, where low-income families, too, could thrive and have access to affordable housing, quality education and economic opportunity," she explains.

So far, about 20 percent of the site has been developed, and includes a combination of residential housing, retail and commercial buildings.

The project is also expanding educational opportunities and programs to strengthen schools in surrounding neighborhoods.

In January the first new school in East Baltimore in more than 25 years – the Elmer A. Henderson: A Johns Hopkins Partnership School – will open, and an early childhood center – The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Early Childhood Center – opens in June.

Dagenais says the educational aspect of the revitalization is crucial – and the goal is to reverse East Baltimore public schools' track record of high absenteeism and poor outcomes, to ensure the education success of children from birth through high school and beyond.

"The school itself has the potential of connecting low-income families to quality educational opportunities that hadn't necessarily been made available,” she says. “And so we expect that the early learning center will help kids become ready for school."

Johns Hopkins University is the operator of both schools and has made a commitment to making them the highest-performing schools in Baltimore.

Dagenais says the educational plan for the community includes other interventions including quality after-school opportunities, family-support centers and a multitude of health services to ensure poor health is not a barrier to educational outcome.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - MD