On April 4, 2018, the new Dorothy I. Height Elementary School opened its doors in Reservoir Hill. The school was the third fully modernized building to open under Baltimore City Schools’ 21st Century School Buildings Program after a five-year process from concept design through grand opening. Throughout the past five years, Child First played a leading role in the design of the building by partnering with stakeholder groups including Reservoir Hill Improvement Council, Beth Am Synagogue, and the Whitelock Community Farm to gather community input on the school building design. After reaching over 500 individuals through one-on-one and small group conversations, the community identified that the building should be designed around the core values of safety, belonging, opportunity and connection. Today, when you walk through the front doors and see the community room on the left, the large glass windows overlooking the playing field and the outdoor amphitheater, the beautifully restored auditorium, and two music rooms; it is easy to feel and see how the values have been integrated into the design.
After the doors of the new school building opened, Child First continued to listen to parents, teachers, and the community. In 2017, Child First Community School Coordinator, Porsche Johnson, and BUILD Organizer, Abby Baldwin, identified the need for transportation services for students living farther than one mile from the school as a key concern, and a barrier to attendance. Together, the two partnered with school leadership and organized opportunities for parents to share their concerns with decision-makers at Baltimore City Public Schools. After several months of organizing, City Schools granted students living beyond the one-mile radius from the new school building bus service, thereby reducing the barriers for families to access and attend their brand new school building. Child First is grateful for the opportunity to have played such important roles at Dorothy I. Height throughout the 21st Century School Buildings process and looks forward to working with the next two Child First schools to undergo modernization: Calvin M. Rodwell where construction began Summer 2018, and Robert W. Coleman, which concluded its feasibility study in May 2018.