The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, one of the largest private foundations in the United States, hosted a celebration Monday at Westport Academy to mark the grand opening of the 10th and 11th libraries renovated as part of the Baltimore Elementary and Middle School Library Project.
The newly renovated spaces are at Westport Adcademy and Commodore John Rodgers Elementary/Middle School.
Featured speakers at the event included Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, and Gregory E. Thornton, the CEO of Baltimore City Public Schools.
The Library Project is a multi-year, collaborative effort to design, build, equip, and staff new or renovated elementary/middle school libraries in selected schools where existing funds can be leveraged. The Weinberg Foundation has committed $10 million to build or transform up to 24 Baltimore City Public School libraries in an effort to strengthen academic achievement among students.
“To date, the Weinberg Foundation has paid $4.6 million in capital and operating support for the first 11 libraries serving more than 5,500 students,” said Rachel Garbow Monroe, Weinberg Foundation president and chief executive officer. “This initiative would not be possible without the contributions of more than 40 partners, all committed to the Library Project’s core goal of creating environments that foster literacy and better learning. We are evaluating the impact of these new spaces and excited to share the latest results including a more than 300-percent jump in book checkouts and significant increases in literacy comprehension and fluency.”
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/guardians, informal reading areas and separate areas for study and research, instruction, and group discussion.
In addition to showcasing the transformed libraries, the event included family tours of the renovated space at Westport Academy as well as a client choice food pantry, operated by Maryland Food Bank and The Heart of America Foundation, where each family will be able to select 25 pounds of food, including fresh produce. Students and families at Commodore John Rodgers will showcase their space later in the week and will also have the opportunity to participate in family tours and a food pantry.
Previously, nine other schools – Moravia Park Elementary, Southwest Baltimore Charter, Thomas Johnson Elementary/Middle,Arlington Elementary/Middle, Elmer A. Henderson: A Johns Hopkins Partnership School, The Historic Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Elementary, Harford Heights Elementary, Morrell Park Elementary/Middle, and Windsor Hills Elementary/Middle schools – have been built or completely renovated through the program.