First glimpse of the SEED School
I got my first glimpse of the SEED School of Maryland today. The state's first public boarding school has just opened with a class of sixth graders who arrived on Aug. 24 to a partially completed campus on the site of the old Southwestern High School building in far southwest Baltimore.
Nancy S. Grasmick, the state superintendent of schools, was there to see the school was up and running, as were several SEED School leaders. The preparatory school is intended for at-risk children from sixth through 12th grade, from around the state.
The first sign that this isn't your ordinary school is a black metal fence at the front entrance. Safety is a priority on the sprawling, partially wooded campus, so you have to be let into the site. Inside there is an odd contrast between the hulking, old building that once housed a large comprehensive high school and the new, modern dorms that have just sprouted out of the grass behind the old building.
The old building, a huge, concrete block structure with a minimum of windows, housed a school that had been considered failing by the time it closed. The test scores were horrible by then. There are a dozen of these schools around the city, some of them symbolizing everything that went wrong with urban high schools in the past 20 years. Seeing the old building next to the new one with its brightly colored walls and small, intimate spaces seems such a reminder of the new direction of education.
Around the city, dozens of new small schools have being opened. It is too early to say which will succeed, but it is clear large high schools will be a thing of the past, at least in the city.
This coming summer, one part of the old building will be torn down, and the other section will receive a $30 million renovation. Within a year and a half, the old vision of what a high school should have been will disappear and the SEED School will offer a new, alternative for students.