After Towson Catholic, What?

Students Deal Differently With High School's Sudden Closing

July 22, 2009|By Mary Gail Hare and Matthew Hay Brown | Mary Gail Hare and Matthew Hay Brown,mary.gail.hare@baltsun.com

Towson Catholic High School's surprise closing this month has left dozens of families scrambling to find new schools for the fall semester.

Now the 163 students who had enrolled at the Towson school are scattering, with some heading to Baltimore Lutheran School, others to Catholic schools such as Calvert Hall and Mercy, and still others to public high schools. Some students have not figured out where they're going; and others are pinning their hopes on a court hearing scheduled Friday, when a Baltimore County judge will be asked to block Towson Catholic's closing.

Here are the stories of several students facing the change:

Carla Baressi : She was weeks from starting her term as senior class president when the announcement came, but Carla Baressi is making peace with the closing.

"Last week, I cried numerous times," the Parkville 17-year-old said. "I mean, it's really heartbreaking to know that my school is closing in the middle of the summer without any warning. But I've also realized I have to move on because right now Towson Catholic isn't reopening, but my future must still go on."

A member of the National Honor Society, Baressi has been accepted at Maryvale Preparatory School and planned to attend an orientation there for Towson Catholic students on Monday. The girls school was the first she contacted; she may also look at Catholic High School.

Baressi is mostly looking forward, but she can't help casting a glance at what she leaves behind.

"I was in the midst of looking at colleges, and I had to put that on hold to look at a high school," she said. "And I just feel that no matter where I go I'm always going to be a freshman because I never really had a senior year with all my friends."

Jenavieve Kohler : Jenavieve Kohler, 17, was looking forward to a senior year that held the promise of becoming an officer in the National Honor Society. She also hoped, with help from her teachers, to put together a portfolio of her work that would help win her a spot in a college art program.

"Art is really personal at TC," she said. "I had the freedom to work on my art there. The teachers knew what our interests were and gave us freedom to make our own decisions."

An art career still beckons - she hopes to one day own a studio - but she wonders what school will appear on her diploma. Home-schooled through eighth grade at the family's Randallstown residence, Kohler said Towson Catholic students are the only classmates she has known. "Everybody knows everybody there."

Mother and daughter are seriously reconsidering home-schooling. Blanche Kohler, who sent four of her five children to Towson Catholic, said she can handle most of the courses. But she's leery of trigonometry and has contacted a tutor.

Jenavieve, meanwhile, is resigned to missing the pre-graduation traditions, like prom, senior trip and homecoming.

"If I am home-schooled, I will still stay in touch with all my TC friends," she said.

Walter Noel IV : Walter Noel IV isn't just looking for a new school. He's also looking for a new team.

Entering his senior year, the 17-year-old basketball standout had been hoping to land a scholarship to play in college. Several colleges have tracked his progress on the court, but now he is concerned they won't know where to find him.

"All of his materials have his old coach's name on it," said his father, Walter Noel III. "All the profiles that we have on the Internet have Towson Catholic on them."

"It's going to be very time-consuming to call up every coach and ask them to change their information, and we can't even do that yet because he hasn't been accepted anywhere else yet."

The good news for the starting forward for the Towson Catholic's varsity is that his father is well-connected among area coaches, several of whom have called to ask about his plans for the fall. He is applying to St. Paul's in Brooklandville, where he hopes to fit in in the classroom and on the court.

Not all his teammates have been as fortunate.

"Some people are trying to find a place still," he said. "I know some people on the team just have to apply to schools to see if they can get in and then try to make the team, which, for other seniors, it just isn't good. The short notice is what's really killing everybody."

Whether Noel ends up at St. Paul's or elsewhere, it will be his third high school in four years. He transferred to Towson Catholic as a sophomore after feeling "overwhelmed" by the size of McDonogh School in Owings Mills.

"I liked that [Towson Catholic] was so small that everybody knew everybody and we just gelled together," he said.

Cody Mitchell : Cody Mitchell, 16, has made preparations to transfer to Baltimore Lutheran for his senior year and has won assurances that he can continue playing lacrosse there. While grateful for the opportunity, he has told the school it is his second choice.

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