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Weinberg Foundation continues great work in City Schools

Stacy M. Brown | 1/27/2017, 6 a.m. | Updated on 1/26/2017, 6 a.m.
Hampden Elementary/Middle School and George Washington Elementary School are the 12th and 13th schools, respectively, to receive newly-renovated libraries
Students at Windsor Hills Elementary School in West Baltimore enjoy their new library which is one of 13 renovated thanks to the Weinberg Foundation. Courtesy Photo

The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, one of the largest private foundations in the United States, hosted a celebration on Mon., Jan. 23 marking the re-grand opening of two more libraries as part of the Baltimore Elementary and Middle School Library Project.

Hampden Elementary/Middle School and George Washington Elementary School are the 12th and 13th schools, respectively, to receive newly-renovated libraries.

“The Weinberg Foundation is committed to continually improving academic achievement in Baltimore City Public Schools. To demonstrate that, we have engaged research partners who monitor and evaluate the Library Project,” Rachel Garbow Monroe, the Weinberg Foundation president and chief executive officer, said in a news release.

“Among the latest findings, the first three Library Project schools outperformed more than 120 Baltimore City Public Schools on PARCC tests measuring reading fluency,” said Garbow Monroe. “This confirms that the libraries are continuing to have a profound, positive impact on students.”

The Baltimore Library Project is a multi-year, collaborative effort to design, build, equip, and staff with new or renovated elementary/middle school libraries in selected schools where existing funds can be leveraged, according to the news release.

The Weinberg Foundation provides approximately $100 million in annual grants to nonprofits that provide direct services to low-income and vulnerable individuals and families, primarily in America and Israel.

The foundation has committed $10 million to build or transform up to 24 Baltimore City Public School libraries to strengthen academic achievement among students.

By Fall 2017, the Library Project will serve approximately 6,000 students, which equated to 10 percent of city schools’ elementary and middle school population, according to Garbow Monroe.

“Each new library is a well-equipped, well-staffed, and well-resourced space that includes beautiful design, new furniture and graphics, the latest technologies, an ‘Enoch Pratt Parent Place’ for parents and guardians, and informal reading areas, as well as separate areas for study and research, instruction, and group discussion,” she said.

As of the most recent dedication, 13 new spaces have been built or completely renovated, including at Arlington Elementary/Middle; Commodore John Rodgers Elementary/Middle; Elmer A. Henderson: A Johns Hopkins Partnership School; Harford Heights Elementary; The Historic Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Elementary; Moravia Park Elementary; Morrell Park Elementary/Middle; Southwest Baltimore Charter; Thomas Johnson Elementary/Middle; Westport Academy; and Windsor Hills Elementary/Middle schools.

The next library renovation is planned at Francis Scott-Key Elementary/Middle School and is scheduled to take place in the summer.

This year, the Library Project’s base of support has grown even broader because of Casino Local Impact Grant funds made available to the city due to the development of the Horseshoe Casino Baltimore. Those funds accrue annually to the city from the state, which requires that a percentage of gaming revenue be invested to support community development in surrounding neighborhoods.

“The school hosting [Monday’s] grand opening celebration, George Washington Elementary, is located within one of the neighborhoods of this catchment area, known as the ‘South Baltimore Gateway,’” Monroe said, adding that the Library Project is among several initiatives designated by the city to receive impact grant funds in Fiscal Year 2017 with the support of the Baltimore Casino Local Development Council or LDC.

The LDC advises the Mayor on annual priorities and on long-term strategies for making the best use of impact grant funds.