THE NEW
CHARTER SCHOOL

In 2013 the search began for a new building to accommodate the continued growth of Green Street Academy. Requirements for a new building included easy access for walking and service by public transportation, an infrastructure that would allow for expanding curriculum and integrated technology, and space to accommodate programming accessible to all members of the community.

A chance visit to the former Gwynns Falls Park Junior High by the father of a Green Street Academy board member, himself a real estate developer, lead him to explore the exterior of the campus to determine the condition of the building and the state of its occupancy. What he discovered was a prime candidate for GSA’s new campus.

Built in 1925, then the most expensive school in Baltimore City history, Gwynns Falls Park Junior High had experienced a cycle of success followed by a sustained period of decline starting in the 1960s. When the board of Green Street Academy learned about the building, it was owned by Kingdom Life Church, which had acquired it from Baltimore City in the 1980s for use as a church and its K-12 Christian school, but only used currently for its sanctuary and youth ministries. Over the course of many months, GSA gauged the church’s interest not only in selling the building, but also in sharing space with the school for its own activities, an idea embraced by Pastor Michael Philips and his parishioners. Under Pastor Phillips’ stewardship, the congregation did more than simply accept Green Street Academy’s offer; its members became passionate advocates for moving the school to their neighborhood, attended public hearings with Baltimore City Public Schools leadership and expressed their support for Green Street Academy’s charter school application, and impressed upon city leaders the potential impact of the new school on stabilizing their community. In the end, the church’s fellowship proved critical to the process of Green Street Academy achieving charter school approval and resurrecting a long-underutilized school building that once served the surrounding community proudly for decades.

BREAKING GROUND

By the time GSA discovered the former Gwynns Falls Park Junior High building, over 30 years had passed since it functioned as a school and badly needed repair. The entire structure was threatened by a failing roof, windows and floors were rotted and broken, and plaster walls were crumbling throughout. While the extent of the renovations would be a substantial challenge, the resulting structure would provide over 145,000 square feet of learning space and 8.75 acres of green space.

Through a combination of financing from Bank of America, The Reinvestment Fund, and the Abell Foundation and support from local foundations and individual contributors, Green Street Academy was able to raise the capital needed to renovate the school and embark on the next leg of its journey.

On January 28, 2015, Larry Rivitz and David Warnock, along school leaders Dan Schochor and Crystal Harden-Lindsey and community supporters, including Baltimore City Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, broke ground on Green Street Academy’s new home and shared their vision for the future with Baltimore. Through its partners Seawall Development, Hord | Coplan | Macht, Southway Builders, and MCN Build, the new GSA was on its way.

A NEW DAY FOR
WEST BALTIMORE

After nine months of renovations, Green Street Academy celebrated its Grand Opening on September 21, 2015. The standing-room only event was held in the auditorium and attended by the entire student body and staff, along with many friends, family, and facilitators who had helped to renovate, furnish, finance, and support the new building project.

Gwynns Falls Park Junior High alumni and keynote speaker U.S. Representative Elijah E. Cummings delivered an inspirational speech praising GSA as an exceptional practitioner of the respect, safety, and excitement for learning that all children need and deserve. He recalled his time in the same building many years ago, saying, “It gave me a sense of hope. My dreams began to unfold.” As the audience listened intently, they understood they were experiencing an important moment in the school’s history, one they would never forget.

Congressman Cummings’ underlying message was clear: Green Street Academy is more than a school. It’s a promise made to lift each other up and continue to succeed.