Grand openings for new library, Early Childhood Center in East Baltimore

Both projects supported by contributions from Weinberg Foundation

Video: Deirdre Hammer and Dan Regner/StoryFarm

The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation and Johns Hopkins University on Wednesday hosted the grand opening of the Weinberg Early Childhood Center, a 30,000-square-foot space on the campus of the Henderson-Hopkins School in East Baltimore designed to care for infants and educate children up to age 5.

The Early Childhood Center is a state-of-the-art facility that will pursue the most effective evidence-based approaches to learning to meet the needs of all students, their families, and an East Baltimore community that is the focal point of an ambitious revitalization effort.

The center is operated by the Johns Hopkins University School of Education in partnership with the YMCA of Central Maryland, the Maryland Family Network, and other partners. The first of an anticipated 130 children, ages 6 weeks to 5 years, began using the childhood center earlier this month.

The event also recognized the Weinberg Foundation's contributions to (and took place in) the Henderson-Hopkins School's new library, which opened this month. The opening of the library at Henderson-Hopkins and three others in Baltimore City Public Schools this month marks the latest chapter of the foundation's ongoing Baltimore Library Project, a multiyear effort to design, build, equip, and staff new or renovated elementary/middle school libraries in high-poverty neighborhoods where many students face academic challenges.

The additions of the Early Childhood Center and library help round out the vision for the Henderson-Hopkins School, which opened its doors in January 2013. Co-operated by Johns Hopkins, it is the first new school to have been built in East Baltimore in more than 20 years, and it marks Johns Hopkins' first foray into university-assisted community school partnerships, a strategy of education reform that has been spreading throughout the United States during the past 30 years.

"Henderson-Hopkins is a critical piece in the ever-changing landscape of this neighborhood and a cornerstone in the success of the East Baltimore development initiative," said Ronald J. Daniels, Johns Hopkins University president, at Wednesday's event. "It is a stable presence as development continues in surrounding blocks, and a magnetic draw to families considering investing in new housing planned across the neighborhood."

Other speakers at the event included Maryland Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Baltimore City Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young, Baltimore City Public Schools CEO Gregory E. Thornton, and Ellen M. Heller, chair of The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation.

"Early childhood education is an important priority for the Weinberg Foundation, and this beautiful early childhood center represents the beginning of a strategic, coordinated plan to give children a brighter, better start throughout Baltimore City," Heller said. "A multitude of Baltimore nonprofits and foundations are partnering with the Baltimore City Public Schools system, the Maryland State Department of Education, and the Mayor's Office. The resulting vision is both exciting and inspiring."