The story of City Neighbors Hamilton begins with City Neighbors Charter School. Beginning as a grassroots movement among a group of city neighbors in the summer of 2003, City Neighbors Charter School has been leading the way for great public education – not only at our schools, but for all children in Baltimore City. The CNCS application was the first to be accepted but only after court action that took a stand for charter schools; our actions cleared the way for dozens of new charter schools to open. CNCS served as the founders of the Coalition of Baltimore Charter Schools and serve on the Board of the Maryland Charter School Network. Led by our efforts, the ruling for equitable funding for charter schools was most recently upheld by the Maryland State Court of Appeals (July 30, 2007). Since that time we continue to advocate for equitable funding for all public schools.
City Neighbors fought hard to open its doors, but it never lost sight of its larger calling–and the calling of all charter schools: To serve as a model and a challenge to all schools to meet the ideals of education. City Neighbors originally planned an even further expansion of its campus on Raspe Avenue, including the construction of a $3.5 million building attached to our current one. However, as our program solidified and our wait lists grew, we were prompted to begin thinking about how we could, instead, provide a unique urban education to more students and families. On one hand, we believe strongly in the need for the small school model – a place where all children are known and feel cared for. On the other hand, we have always felt a calling beyond our own students, a calling that led us to serve as trailblazers and leaders in the public school world, and that thrust us into leadership roles and as partners in systemic change.
So, in order to preserve our small-school model and serve more students, we shifted our thoughts from expansion to replication. We submitted two charter applications to Baltimore City Public Schools: one for City Neighbors Hamilton (K-8) and one for City Neighbors High School. After extensive renovations to the campus that was formerly Hamilton Middle School in northeast Baltimore City, City Neighbors Hamilton opened in 2009 with grades K through 3, expanding each year to reach full capacity in 2014. In 2010, City Neighbors High School opened with ninth grade and now serves students in grades 9 -12.