In 2012 Baltimore City Public Schools announced that it would close 26 school facilities over the course of 10 years, approximately 16% of all schools in the City. The closures are tied to the 21st Century Schools Buildings Plan, an initiative to provide new investment for school facilities throughout the City. Under the plan, BCPS will leverage nearly $1 billion of funds to renovate and modernize all public school buildings in Baltimore. As part of this modernization, the BCPS must right size its capacity.
Across the United States, cities and towns of all sizes face the prospect of closing school facilities. Between 1995 and 2012, an average of 1,630 schools closed per year. While school closures are nothing new, they nonetheless pose daunting challenges to jurisdictions seeking to find productive reuses for closed facilities and their surrounding property.
Although vacant land and buildings present significant challenges, they also have the potential to be assets to their communities. These sites provide large-scale opportunities for new land uses that transform neighborhoods, particularly if the new use can catalyze additional development, investment, or interest in the nearby area. Re-use opportunities include City agency and other government use, private re-use of the building (sale or lease), temporary uses, shared uses, and demolition (open space or clearance for new construction). Profiles of potential uses, such as market rate housing, affordable housing, charter schools, community center, and office space, are available to help inform the discussion.
The closure and surplus of so many schools in Baltimore is a product of population decline. Years of population loss have reduced total enrollment in the district from a peak of around 200,000 in the 1960’s to approximately 84,000 today. Despite a relative stabilization of population in recent years, school enrollment remains well below the current building capacity of City Schools, necessitating a reduction in capacity through closures. Charter school enrollment has also impacted the capacity needs of BCPS, but to a lesser degree than population loss. The 21st Century School Buildings Plan will reduce the overall square footage BCPS occupies through consolidation and investment in existing schools.
Jacobs Report: Facilities Condition Assessment - In the Spring of 2012, City Schools completed a detailed inventory of the inability of many school buildings to adequately support quality instruction and the overall poor condition of the building. This report, commonly known as the Jacobs Report, summarizes the results of the 2011 Facilities Condition Assessment for City Schools. The assessment consisted of an enrollment projection review, capacity analysis, an educational adequacy assessment, a building condition assessment, and a review of all site and building systems with a life cycle renewal forecast. The building condition assessments for each school available listed in the Inventory are from the Jacobs Report.
21st Century Buildings for Our Kids 10 Year Plan - In January 2013, the Board of School Commissioners approved the 21st Century Buildings for Our Kids 10 Year Plan. One major component of the plan is to align the size of the district with student enrollment projections. The plan identifies specific goals for reducing the number of seats, reducing the number of facilities, and increasing the utilization rate. The plan recommends specific schools to be closed in order to meet those goals. The plan is updated annually in December.
Memorandum of Understanding - To clarify roles and expectations regarding implementation of the 21st Century Buildings Plan, there is a Memorandum of Understanding between the four partner organizations involved: Baltimore City Public Schools, City of Baltimore, Interagency Committee on Public School Construction and Maryland Stadium Authority. Exhibit 6 of the MOU identifies expected school building closures. It includes the building name, address, anticipated program closure, swing space utilization, building closure date, and whether bonds are outstanding.
Baltimore City Surplus School Plan - On August 1, 2017, the City of Baltimore was required to submit a plan to the State of Maryland regarding the reuse of surplus schools. The plan includes background about the 21st Century Schools and Surplus Schools, information about National Resource Network recommendations, and a summary of the reuse process, opportunities, and challenges.