Next fall, current students at Hopkins and Lloyd schools will attend classes together at the new Hopkins-Lloyd Community School.
The merger will be good for both school communities, according to Dr. Juan Baez, Hopkins Street School principal. “Both communities bring to the table a rich history and a collective vision of doing our very best for all our children,” Baez said in an interview a few days after the board voted 5-4 to house the merged school at Hopkins, 1503 W. Hopkins St.
About 50 Hopkins supporters cheered and applauded the decision.
“If I could jump up and down, I would,” said Jolene Dunn, a parent of two children attending Hopkins. Dunn is glad her children will be able to continue to walk to school. “They do a lot of things during school and after school that help those kids,” she added.
However, some Lloyd supporters said they felt blindsided because the original MPS proposal called for Lloyd to be the site for the combined schools.
The administration recommended the merger because both schools have low enrollment, and are within a mile of each other. Hopkins, with 272 students, is operating at 44 percent of capacity; Lloyd is at 52 percent of capacity with 352 students, according to MPS. Both schools are more than 95 percent African-American.
Approximately 70 Hopkins staff, parents and community members attended a March 22 committee hearing on the issue, and more than 20 supporters testified. After their testimony, the committee voted 3-1 to merge the schools at Hopkins.
“We came in big numbers because we wanted to be heard, and they heard us,” said Redona Williams, a Hopkins music teacher.
After the vote at the hearing, Lloyd supporters presented the board with more than 200 signatures backing Lloyd as the site for the merged school. Some said the board’s decision was unfair, since MPS administrators had told them the original recommendation was non-negotiable. “We were told that a study was made, and it was decided that Lloyd Street was going to be the choice,” said Carla Mitchell, who lives near Lloyd.
But Baez defended the administration. “I believe, without a doubt, the overall process was fair for both communities,” he said.
Lloyd principal Tyrone Nichols said that the outcome wasn’t a shock. “We knew it could go either way,” he said. But he acknowledged that he thought Lloyd would have an advantage because of the more than $1 million the district spent on recent renovations there.
According to Sharon Burnett, a fourth and fifth grade special education teacher at Lloyd, many parents have said that they will enroll their children at another school rather than send them to Hopkins. “I think within a year that Hopkins is going to be closed,” she added. “It’s going to kill both schools.”
Philip Harris, an MPS spokesman said in a statement that he hopes the schools will be able to work together to benefit the children. “There is always an emotional component to these kinds of decisions,” he added.
The board also decided to name the school Hopkins-Lloyd Community School, instead of Lindsay Heights Community School. The merged school is expected to serve 588 students in grades K-8, according to MPS. Following the lead of the Harlem Children’s Zone in New York, it plans to offer a college-preparatory curriculum and focus on improved learning, healthy families, and educational and cultural enrichment.
“I’m happy with the decision,” said Clarence Royston, a Hopkins supporter and member of Hephatha Lutheran Church. “I’m sorry that one of the schools had to close. I think it was unfair to (Lloyd) because they thought it was a done deal, but if it was done the other way, it would’ve been unfair to us.”