About 70 community members, parents and staff from Hopkins Street School succeeded in swaying an MPS board committee to locate a proposed community school at Hopkins rather than nearby Lloyd Street School. The final decision is in the hands of the full school board, which is expected to vote on the matter on March 31.
The MPS administration recommended merging Hopkins and Lloyd and housing the school at Lloyd. Close to 200 people attended the meeting, which also addressed several other school closings and mergers.
“Why in the world are we talking about closing down the school (in a neighborhood) where all the children live?” Lamont Harris, a Hopkins supporter, asked the committee.
Hopkins’ show of force at the Accountability, Finance and Personnel committee hearing, including testimony from more than 25 people, persuaded the committee to vote three to one to locate the merged school at Hopkins. Peter Blewett, chair of the five-member committee, was out of the room when the vote was taken, according to Communications Director Roseann St. Aubin. David Voeltner, vice chair, was the lone vote against Hopkins.
Many Lloyd supporters attended the meeting, and at least four spoke at the hearing, but they were blindsided by the well-organized Hopkins supporters. “No one [at Lloyd] knew that it was up for grabs,” said Adekola Adedapo, a para-professional at Lloyd. “If we knew, there would have been as many people from Lloyd as Hopkins.” But, Adedapo added, “I was proud of Hopkins standing up for themselves” to protest what they consider a threat to their community.
MPS Regional Executive Specialist Dr. Cynthia Ellwood and St. Aubin both said they were pleased with the support for the merged school, which would be called The Lindsay Heights Community School. If the full board approves the proposal, the school would be modeled after the Harlem Children’s Zone, offering a college-preparatory curriculum and focusing on improved learning, healthy families, and educational and cultural enrichment.
“The Administration believes [the] fact that the merger was embraced was the real critical matter,” St. Aubin said. “This was a really important step,” Ellwood added. She noted that both Lloyd principal Tyrone Nichols and Hopkins principal Dr. Juan Baez were selfless in working together on the proposed merger.
After the vote, the Hopkins supporters erupted in cheers and applause. Pastor Mary Martha Kannass of Hephatha Lutheran Church, who spoke on Hopkins’ behalf, said she felt “a sense of relief and gratitude, and, largely, a sense of what will help our young people was done. That was the overwhelming feeling.”
Ellwood pointed out that the full board might reverse the committee’s decision. “There is a reason that the Administration recommended the Lloyd Street site,” she said. Locating the school at Lloyd would mean moving fewer families because Lloyd has 23 percent more students than Hopkins, better test scores, and is in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. MPS invested a little more than $1 million in renovating Lloyd to comply with ADA, according to Ellwood.
Hopkins supporters said that if the full board overturns the committee’s vote, they would meet to determine the best course of action. “But hopefully that won’t happen,” Kannass said.
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