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IND, oldest girls’ prep school in Maryland, closing its doors for good

Students Kaylah Thompson, Hayley Kelly, Jasmine Blanton, Caché Lynch and Raven Brown play the roles of DNA analysts working in a forensic lab during the Biomedical Sciences Program Human Body Systems course at the Institute of Notre Dame Oct. 12, 2012. (CR File)

The Institute of Notre Dame, which has educated girls in Baltimore since 1847, announced May 5 that it was closing its doors for good.

The oldest all-girls preparatory school in Maryland, the grades 9-12 institution  was founded and sponsored by the School Sisters of Notre Dame, and served as the order’s flagship school in the United States.

School Sister of Notre Dame Charmaine Krohe, provincial leader, and School Sister of Notre Dame Patricia Murphy, chairwoman of the IND Board of Trustees and a member of the class of 1962, cited declining enrollment, the economy and an aging school building in announcing that the school would close, effective June 30, in a letter addressed to members of the IND community.

The Archdiocese of Baltimore does not have authority over the governance of the school, and was not involved in the decision to close the school, according to a spokesman for the archdiocese.

IND staff were informed of the decision at 3 p.m., during a Zoom online meeting.

Archbishop William E. Lori was informed of the school’s decision shortly before it was announced to the school community.

“It is with great sadness that we write to you today to announce that this school year will be our last,” Sister Charmaine and Sister Patricia wrote. “Our beloved Institute of Notre Dame (IND) will close on June 30.

“We had hoped to have a different outcome and have been trying valiantly the last several years to build a sustainable future,” their letter continued. “Several factors have contributed to our very recent decision: our enrollment continues to decline and is down 43 percent from five years ago; some of our major supporters have advised us they will no longer be able to provide us with financial contributions; and we currently discount our tuition almost 30 percent, through financial aid to our students with 90 percent of our student body receiving some assistance.

“Additionally,” Sister Charmaine and Sister Patricia wrote, “our building requires $5 million of repairs, just to allow us to continue to use it. It would require $34 million to make it a state-of-the-art facility. Identifying and moving to another campus would take time and significant resources. And now, COVID-19 has caused significant, added financial hardship.

Taking all of this into account, to remain open we would need to raise many millions of dollars, immediately. And we would need to substantially increase our fundraising goals each year going forward or significantly increase the tuition, or a combination,” wrote Sister Charmaine and Sister Patricia, who noted the generosity of the Sisters of Notre Dame over the last several years. “The Atlantic-Midwest Province has contributed several million dollars to try to keep our school in operation – it has recently become clear that there is no way forward – in spite of the tireless efforts of the Sisters, the Board of Trustees and the school’s leadership team.”

Christine Szala was the head of school at IND.

Tuition for the 2019-20 school year was $14,700. As recently as last September, IND announced a $2 million gift toward scholarships from Catherine Bunting, a prominent Baltimore philanthropist.

The all-girls school counts among its alumnae two of the most powerful female office-holders in the history of the United States: two-time Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and former Maryland Representative and Senator Barbara Mikulski, the longest-serving woman in the history of the U.S. Congress.

It marks the second closure in three years of a Catholic girls’ high school inside the Baltimore Beltway.  The Seton Keough High School, which formed in a 1988 merger of Seton High School and Archbishop Keough High School, closed in 2017.

The area in and around the Beltway still has five girls’ high schools (The Catholic High School of Baltimore, Maryvale Preparatory School, Mercy High School, Mount de Sales Academy and Notre Dame Preparatory), compared to four for boys: (Archbishop Curley High School, Calvert Hall College High School, Loyola Blakefield and Mount St. Joseph High School).

Other Catholic schools in the region have faced similar decisions this spring. Citing “declines in student enrollment and local fundraising,” the Diocese of Camden, N.J., announced in April the closure at the end of the school year of five schools, including St. Joseph High School in Hammonton and Wildwood Catholic High School. The Diocese of Harrisburg, Pa., which has filed for bankruptcy, recently announced the closure of two of its schools, including Lebanon Catholic High.

All Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Baltimore have been closed to students and teachers since mid-March, due to the coronavirus.

“We recognize that this news brings with it many emotions in what has already been a very emotional year,” Sister Charmaine and Sister Patricia wrote. “We deeply regret that we cannot be together physically, to comfort and support each other. Hopefully, at a future date, we will be able to hold a closing ceremony, to allow all of us to come together as a community, to mourn, to celebrate and to remember all that IND has meant to us.”

Email Paul McMullen at pmcmullen@CatholicReview.org 

Read more: Alumnae mourn the loss of Institute of Notre Dame, the ‘hidden gem of Baltimore’

Editor’s Note: This story was updated May 5 at 10:15 p.m. to clarify when The Seton Keough High School was formed.