Southwestern High School, a huge concrete building shuttered last month, likely will be reborn as a public boarding school for disadvantaged students.Both the State School Superintendant Nancy Grasmick and Governor Martin O'Malley (D) are impressed with the successes of the SEED school in Washington. Said the Governor:
The nonprofit SEED Foundation is negotiating with Baltimore officials to get a 99-year lease for the site. The foundation would pay one dollar a year for the lease.
It is a fantastic opportunity," said Tom Stosur, assistant deputy mayor. "It is a unique site in the city because it is in the city but set apart."
SEED, which runs a school in Washington, won approval in the General Assembly to launch a public boarding school in Maryland to serve disadvantaged students. The group expects to open in the fall of 2008 with 80 sixth-graders and grow to become a middle and high school of 400 students from around the state.
Southwestern High School sits on a 50-acre tract, much of it wooded, near Gwynns Falls Park in West Baltimore. The school was large enough to hold at least 2,000 students, but the city school board decided to close it this year as part of an effort to break up the largest high schools and reduce excess space.
The site is attractive because it offers enough land so that the school can have a true campus with a traditional quad and dormitories around it, said Carol Beck, SEED's director of new school development in Maryland.
SEED officials say students benefit from staying in a boarding school because they sometimes live in circumstances that can be disruptive to education. In some instances, their immediate families have dissolved and they are living with cousins or other relatives.
SEED has raised $5 million in capital through a gift from former Ravens owners Art and Patricia Modell, and the group is hoping to raise another $25 million in private funds to build the campus. The state will provide $25,000 per student per year for operating expenses, and about $7,000 to $8,000 will come from the student's home school district.
"This is an excellent program," he said. "I'm so excited we're doing this in Maryland."I was impressed by the SEED school's record and I hope they can raise the funds to get the school opened soon.
The governor said he hopes the legislature will allow the establishment of a second public boarding school. "There's definitely a need for another one of these things in the Washington area," O'Malley said.