Check out that cafeteria (pictured above)! It’s the new dining spot for the several hundred public school students who attend Charles Village’s Margaret Brent elementary/middle school, and it sure is spiffy… So spiffy, in fact, that it looks a lot nicer than what I remember of the basement cafeteria at Johns Hopkins’ Homewood campus. (I haven’t eaten there in a few years, so they may have installed their own colorful floor tiles in the meantime. But I have a sneaking suspicion they didn’t.)

Margaret Brent’s renovated cafeteria is part of $1.6 million in summer upgrades that the university helped provide to public elementary and middle schools in its vicinity. (The other beneficiary was Barclay elementary/middle.) Half the funds were donated by the university, while the other half were provided by Baltimore City Public Schools. The money was spent on upgrading restrooms, renovating cafeterias, creating updated (and more secure) entrances, installing new windows and doors, and improving handicapped access.

Hopkins not only gets some good karma (and good PR) for its contribution; it also helps make these two schools more attractive prospects for the children of Hopkins faculty and staff who live near the university. “Our goal is for these schools to be great choices for all neighborhood families,” Karen Stokes, executive director of Greater Homewood Community Corporation, told the Hopkins Hub. “In order for us to build on the progress we’ve made at Barclay and Margaret Brent, some immediate physical improvements were needed and we are thrilled that Johns Hopkins and the school system have stepped up.”

These summer renovations are just one example of the university’s $10 million attempt to take over improve 10 neighborhoods surrounding the Homewood campus. “High-performing schools are at the heart of healthy neighborhoods, and our entire community is stronger for the results of this remarkable collaboration,” said Johns Hopkins president Ronald Daniels. “That’s as good for Johns Hopkins as it is for each one of our neighbors.”