After school closings, shopping for options
Baltimore Sun staff writer Arthur Hirsch contributes a report:
With the meter running on decisions about choosing another Catholic school, more than 100 Cardinals Gibbons School parents and students streamed through a suite of rooms upstairs in the Fine Arts Building Monday evening to check out their options.
Representatives of 10 high schools from as far away as Annapolis and as close as a couple miles away had set up tables at the southwest Baltimore campus to dispense information and answer questions. With Gibbons scheduled to close in June as part of the Archdiocese of Baltimore's plan to reshape its school system, there were lots of questions, many concerning money in one way or another. Would their child's Gibbons scholarship continue? Would the archdiocese cover the difference between the Gibbons tuition and the new school?
"You'd think they have funds to offset this difference in the tuition," said Shawn Blum, of Halethorpe. His son, Riley, was on a full scholarship in his junior year at Gibbons and is now thinking about transferring to Mt. St. Joseph, the next nearest Catholic school, but at more than $11,000 in tuition, $1,000 more that at Gibbons. That could work, Blum said, but it might depend on the scholarship. In in the end it could mean Riley completes a senior year at Landsdowne High School, a nearby public school.
"A lot of students are really upset," Blum said. "Their parents had paid to go to Catholic school, then they have to finish it up at a public school."
More than 2,100 students in 13 schools are being displaced, and the archdiocese has promised each one a seat in a Catholic school, either among the 52 remaining archdiocesan schools or independent institutions. Applications are due on March 29, with admissions offices scheduled to mail out their decision letters on April 13.
"The Catholic schools stood up tonight and said 'We're here for you,' " said Mark D. Pacione, the archdiocesan associate director for Catholic schools planning.
Parents had come to gather information this time, not vent their anger as they had a week before as a standing-room crowd of some 1,000 packed the school auditorium to face archdiocesan officials. But it was clear that the wounds were still fresh, and there was still talk of ulterior motives in closing the boys' school, and of giving Gibbons another chance independent of the archdiocese.
"Why let this property sit, why not give us a shot?" said Richard Irwin, whose son, Garth, was graduating from Gibbons this year and whose younger son, Ryan, is in 10th grade and now weighing his choices. They were leaning toward Archbishop Curley, across town on the east side, not least because it's closest to Gibbons in size with about 600 students, roughly twice the Gibbons enrollment.
Ryan had scheduled a "shadow day" at Curley this week, meaning he would follow a Curley student through the day and get a feel for the place. He was scheduled to spend another day after that at Archbishop Spalding in Anne Arundel County, but if he liked Curley he'd probably stop the search right there.
"You knew everybody" at Gibbons, said Garth. "You weren't like a stranger walking around."