New Catholic School Breaks Ground on Martin Luther King Boulevard

| October 23, 2019 | 0 Comments

The Archdiocese of Baltimore held a groundbreaking ceremony today for the future Mother Mary Lange Catholic School facing Martin Luther King Blvd. in Poppleton. The 65,000 sq. ft. Pre-K-8 school will occupy two currently-vacant lots at 732 W. Lexington and 763 Dr. Benjamin Quarles Pl. and will be surrounded on three sides by The Townes at the Terraces development. The lots were once a public school and part of the Lexington Terrace public housing complex.

Mother Mary Lange Catholic School is a $24-million investment and the first new school to be built by the Archdiocese of Baltimore in nearly 60 years. It will open in Fall 2021.

The school’s namesake Mother Mary Lange was born in the late 1700s in Cuba and immigrated to Baltimore in 1812, joining many French-speaking Catholics from Haiti. After moving to Fells Point, Mother Lange discovered that there were few educational opportunities for African American children in the city. At the time many African American residents were enslaved and free African Americans were denied access to most schools. Along with her friend Marie Balas, Mother Lange opened a school for anyone in her small home.

Mother Lange later opened The Oblate Sisters of Providence which become the first sustained religious order for women of African descent in the United States. Soon after, Mother Lange became a nun.

The Oblate Sisters of Providence eventually became St. Frances Academy, which is the oldest continuously operating school for African American Catholic children in the United States.

The Catholic Church is currently considering Mother Lange for sainthood.

Mother Mary Lange Catholic School will be the new home for students currently attending Saints James & John and Holy Angels Catholic Schools, representing 400-plus students living in 40 zip codes throughout the city. Enrollment is expected to total 520 within its fourth year of operation.

It is anticipated that 80-90% of the mostly non-Catholic student population will qualify for tuition assistance from the Archdiocese, which will make available more than $1 million for tuition grants and assistance through the Archdiocese’s Partners In Excellence Scholarship Program. This tuition assistance will be complemented by additional aid from private scholarship funds, the State of Maryland’s BOOST program, and Catholic Community Foundation tuition assistance endowments.

Mother Mary Lange Catholic School will include:

  • STEM Suite (Science Lab, makerspace and robotics)
  • Digital Media Center (Library and Digital Media Studio)
  • Art and Music rooms
  • Health Suite
  • Regulation size gymnasium with performance stage
  • Chapel
  • Full-service kitchen and dining facility
  • 7 on 7 Soccer/lacrosse field and exercise circuit
  • State of the Art Security Systems

The staff of Mother Mary Lange Catholic School will include 35 teachers, teacher aids, and administrators. It will have a full-time counselor, as well as access to medical and dental care professionals and a speech-language clinician.

The Department of Catholic Schools said they are currently in discussions with university, corporate, philanthropic, and nonprofit partners to ensure that Mother Mary Lange students receive superior education and wrap-around support services.

The Archdiocese has raised $19.5 million so far for Mother Mary Lange Catholic School ($19 million for construction and $500,000 for scholarships). It is making the case for New Market Tax Credits which could yield $5 million to $7 million for the project. The Archdiocese is also seeking to endow two $2.5-million funds each for operating expenses to ensure the integrity and maintenance of the building and tuition grants and aid.

Whiting-Turner is the lead contractor on the project.

“Providing our youth quality education and pathways to success is at the core of our mission,” said Archbishop William E. Lori in a press release.  “This significant investment by the Archdiocese of Baltimore and our partners represents our unqualified commitment to the City, and most especially, to the families and communities that deserve a safe, nurturing, state-of-the-art environment to gather, to learn and mature, to celebrate and make possible a better future for themselves and for us all.”  

“For over two centuries the Catholic Church has been invigorating our City and State with resources and services essential to enhanced quality of life,” said Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young in a press release. “Now with the creation of this 21st Century educational center of excellence, the Archdiocese continues this legacy, enabling a new generation to benefit from its commitment to providing quality education. We could not be more grateful to the Archdiocese of Baltimore for their investment, commitment and partnership in making possible this new era of opportunity for our young people, their families and in fact, our entire community.”

The closure of Southwest Baltimore’s Holy Angels Catholic School after the 2020-21 school year will leave the large campus without a user. The campus, located at 1201 S. Caton Ave., was also the home of Seton Keough High School before it closed in 2017. Archbishop Lori told SouthBMore.com that the Archdiocese is currently looking into what to do with property, but said it would be used to benefit Catholic schools whether that is through proceeds from a sale or for a future use of the land.

Adjacent to the Holy Angels Catholic School/Seton Keough High School campus is the former campus of Cardinal Gibbons School which was purchase by adjacent Saint Agnes Hospital in 2012. Saint Agnes is currently redeveloping the campus with housing, a YMCA, parking, and a renovation to the baseball field, which was renamed Babe Ruth Field.

Overhead shot courtesy of Google Maps

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Site plan courtesy of Century Engineering, JMT Architecture, and Whiting Turner

Mother Mary Lange photo courtesy of the Archdiocese of Baltimore

School rendering courtesy of the Archdiocese of Baltimore

School video tour courtesy of the Archdiocese of Baltimore

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Founder and Publisher of SouthBmore.com, longtime resident of South Baltimore, and a graduate of Towson University. Diehard Ravens and O's fan, beach volleyball enthusiast, dog lover, and "bar food" foodie. Email me at [email protected] and follow me on Twitter at @SoBoKevin.
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