Economy Forces Towson Catholic To Close

July 08, 2009|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Mary.gail.hare@baltsun.com

Faced with rapidly declining enrollment and mounting debt, Towson Catholic High School will not open for classes in September and becomes the archdiocese's first high school to close in many years.

The co-educational school notified parents and its 20-member faculty of the decision by letter and e-mail on Tuesday.

Towson Catholic, founded in 1922 as the parish high school for Immaculate Conception Roman Catholic Church, claims among its alumni the NBA's Carmelo Anthony and Donte Green, Olympic gold medalist Anita Nall, Christian music artist Janna Long and several Maryland legislators, including Sen. Katherine A. Klausmeier.

The school was dealing with $160,000 in unpaid tuition, its only source of income. Reopening would have meant coping with an overall deficit of $650,000, said Sean Caine, spokesman for the archdiocese. The school had 244 students in June and graduated 59. It has lost 81 students in the past several weeks.

FOR THE RECORD - An article Tuesday about the closing of Towson Catholic High School misstated which school state Sen. Katherine A. Klausmeier attended. She is a graduate of the Catholic High School of Baltimore.
The Baltimore Sun regrets the error.

"Over the last 10 years, this school has lost 26 kids," Caine said. "Suddenly losing 81 put us in uncharted territory. We know many of our families are struggling, and the economy forced them to make a difficult decision."

Only 17 of the current students were parishioners and nearly 86 percent lived outside the Towson area, with half of them commuting from Baltimore City.

"This is directly related to the economy," Caine said. "The enrollment situation created an untenable problem. The school had not received any of the outstanding tuition, and there was not the typical summer registration. It is already late, and we feared waiting any longer would put the families already enrolled in a more difficult situation."

In a letter to parish families, Monsignor F. Dennis Tinder, pastor, and Clare Pitz, the high school principal, wrote: "We want you to know that our administration has made a valiant effort at survival, but the tidal wave of this dire economy" proved to be too much.

A school administrator will work directly with its families. Administrators have asked area Catholic high schools to accept its students at Towson Catholic's annual tuition of $9,500, which in many cases is a lower cost. The archdiocese's human resources staff is meeting with the school's faculty next week in an effort to find placements in the area's 85 schools.

It is too soon to decide what will happen to the school building, which, from Ware Avenue, overlooks Towson's business and government offices, Caine said. The parish's elementary and middle schools, on the same campus, are thriving, Caine said.

The archdiocese has recently announced the closing of St. Mary School in Govans, the Catholic Community School in Federal Hill and St. Michael School in Frostburg. With the closing of Towson Catholic, only two co-educational parish high schools remain -Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Essex and St. Mary's in Annapolis. Archbishop Edwin F. O'Brien has appointed a committee to study the Catholic school system and recommend a plan to address the financial challenges facing them by 2010.

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