Bill would let city rent closed Catholic schools

Councilman suggests they could be used for charter schools

March 08, 2010|By Julie Scharper |

Charter schools would be allowed to pay a nominal fee to occupy buildings that will be left vacant after a coming round of Catholic school closings under a proposal a Baltimore City councilman plans to introduce tonight.

Parents who do not want to send children to public schools might move to the counties if the Catholic schools are not quickly replaced, said Councilman Nicholas D'Adamo.

"A lot of people are not comfortable with the schools that children would have to go to close to home," said D'Adamo. "That's why they made the sacrifice to send them to Catholic schools."

Ten of the 13 schools the Archdiocese of Baltimore has slated to close are in the city. Two of those schools, Mother Mary Lange and Our Lady of Fatima, are in D'Adamo's North Baltimore district.

D'Adamo, a Catholic who attended the long-closed Shrine of the Little Flower School, figures as many as 1,000 families could leave the city after the schools close.

D'Adamo plans to introduce two bills from the floor of tonight's council meeting to address the closings. One would ask Archbishop Edwin F. O'Brien to appear before the council to discuss renting the buildings to charter schools for $1 a year. The other would ask city public schools CEO Andrés Alonso to speak at a council hearing about the process of starting a charter school.

"I think if a charter school opens up in these schools that parents would feel comfortable sending their kids there," D'Adamo said.

Like other nonprofits, the archdiocese does not pay property taxes. D'Adamo is troubled by the thought of tax-exempt buildings being vacant.

Sean Caine, a spokesman for the archdiocese, said that the archbishop has instructed his staff to focus on "helping the children manage the transition. At the appropriate time, we'll begin to look at next steps, including what to do with the properties."

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