Before a standing-room-only crowd gathered in the auditorium, Johns Hopkins University President Ronald J. Daniels and a host of city and state officials this morning formally opened the Henderson-Hopkins K-8 elementary/middle school, the beautiful new cornerstone of an ambitious, ongoing urban renewal effort in East Baltimore.
The $43 million facility, the first new public school building in East Baltimore in more than two decades, is seen as a key component of the 88-acre biotech and residential project taking place just blocks north of Johns Hopkins Hospital.
Originally known as East Baltimore Community School, the school had operated since 2009 from modular, temporary classrooms just blocks from the current campus. Construction on the 90,000-square-foot Henderson-Hopkins facility began in June 2012, and the building officially opened its doors just a few weeks ago, during the first week of January.
"From the beginning, no matter where it was housed, this school was really driven by an unshakable belief that every child ... has the fundamental right to a great education," Daniels said. "A belief that education can be a transformative force in society and can make it better. And a belief that a truly great school can serve as the beating heart of a vibrant community.
"As this new building gracefully unfolded into East Baltimore, it became a physical manifestation of those bedrock convictions. It now stands as a concrete promise that we have made to our children, and that will last far into the future."
The event also featured remarks by Sen. Barbara Mikulski; U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings; Gov. Martin O'Malley; Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake; Baltimore City Public Schools interim CEO Tisha Edwards; Patricia L. Welch, dean of Morgan State University's School of Education and Urban Studies; Baltimore City Council President Bernard "Jack" Young; Ellen Heller, board chair of the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation; and Patrick McCarthy, president and CEO of the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
O'Malley, a longtime supporter of efforts to revitalize East Baltimore, expressed pride in the Henderson-Hopkins students and in the work that led to the school's new beginnings.
"There is nothing harder in this world than starting something new," he said. "And all of you have shown the courage not only to start something new but to create something better."
Each of the speakers was introduced by current Henderson-Hopkins students who shared what they liked best about the school. Favorites ranged from flat-panel TVs to outdoor spaces to the spacious gymnasium. One precocious fifth-grader even complimented the building's striking architecture.
The celebration included performances by the school band and choir and a rousing rendition of the school song by all in attendance. And some impromptu dance moves by the third-grader who introduced Daniels.
Following the formal program, guests were invited to tour the new building, which features a gymnasium, auditorium, library, and family resource center—all available for community use.
The Ashland Avenue campus also includes the $10 million, 30,000-square-foot Harry & Jeanette Weinberg Early Childhood Learning Center, which will serve 170 children, some as young as 6 weeks old.
Henderson-Hopkins—formally known as Elmer A. Henderson: A Johns Hopkins Partnership School—will be a demonstration school of sorts, allowing School of Education students to work closely with students and teachers there, and bring back what they've learned in the field to university classrooms.
"Henderson-Hopkins is a transformational place for students, their families, and the community," said David Andrews, dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Education. "It is so very gratifying to be able to officially open its doors and wholeheartedly thank the many people who helped make it a reality. We will continue to celebrate its impact for years to come."
Daniels closed his remarks by addressing the school's students directly.
"You know how impressive this school is; it's why so many people wanted to be here today to celebrate with you," he said. "But the most impressive thing about this school is not the bricks and mortar that compose this physical structure. We are all here—indeed, this school is here—because we think you are extraordinary. We can't wait to see all the good things you'll do."