The Loyola Early Learning Center (LELC) In Baltimore will open a kindergarten in September 2021, the first step in expanding the no-tuition Jesuit preschool into a preK-4 elementary offering a free Jesuit education to 200 low-income Baltimore City children.
The first kindergarten of The Loyola School, the LELC’s new name, will begin classes Sept. 7 with 10 to 12 students who are graduating as LELC pre-K students on Aug. 19. Non-LELC students are also welcome to apply.
As the kindergartners progress, the school will add one new elementary grade level each fall until 2025, when the school will reach its target enrollment of 20 children at each preschool level and 28 in each of grades K through 4.
The Loyola School is an initiative of St. Ignatius Catholic Community and the USA East Province.
“Our aim is to foster not only our students’ academic achievement but also their cognitive, affective, spiritual and social growth,” said the Fr. William J. Watters, SJ, a Jesuit priest and founder of the new school. He is also school president and chair of the board of trustees.
“We will continue to recruit children from hard-working low-income Baltimore families who are fully engaged in and committed to their children’s education,” Watters said, “and we will support those families with $15,000 sponsored full-tuition scholarships provided by our generous benefactors.”
The Loyola School is a private, independent Catholic school in the Jesuit tradition and welcomes children from families of various religious traditions.
Starting next spring, The Loyola School plans to convert houses across from St. Ignatius Church, into a school facility. The work is scheduled for completion in time for the 2023-24 school year.
The Loyola School will complete what Fr. Watters calls an “ecosystem” of Jesuit education for girls and boys from low-income Baltimore families, with schools covering all grade levels from preschool through high school. The Loyola Early Learning Center opened in 2017.
The ecosystem also includes St. Ignatius Loyola Academy, founded in 1993, a school for boys in fifth through eighth grades, and Cristo Rey Jesuit High School, a coeducational school that opened in 2007. Fr. Watters founded all these schools, and all are funded by private donors, and in the case of Cristo Rey Jesuit, also by workplaces.
Cristo Rey, St. Ignatius Loyola Academy and the Loyola Early Learning Center have together graduated more than 1,200 students since the academy’s first commencement ceremony in 1996. When the Loyola School grows to its full size, the three schools together will enroll about 670 Baltimore City students a year, almost all children of color on full scholarships.
“The Loyola School reflects the importance of education and social justice not only to Fr. Watters, board members and school supporters but also to the entire St. Ignatius parish,” said the Fr. James Casciotti, SJ, pastor at St. Ignatius. “This church has been part of Baltimore City and the Archdiocese of Baltimore since the 1850s. Our parishioners and our Jesuit priests have been and remain entirely committed to the city and its people.”
When the new facility is complete, it will house kindergarten through fourth-grade students; preschool classes will remain at the current location. Renovation and construction are budgeted at $8 million; more than half of that has already been committed by benefactors.
Fr. Joseph O’Keefe, SJ, provincial of the USA East Province, sent congratulations to Fr. Watters, to The Loyola School board members and leadership team, and to all donors of The Loyola School.
“Your vision of 16 years of Jesuit education for young people from families of slender means in Baltimore has reached its fourth level: first, Loyola Early Learning Center for preschoolers; second, The Loyola School for the elementary level; third, St. Ignatius Loyola Academy for middle schoolers; and fourth, Cristo Rey Jesuit for high schoolers,” Fr. O’Keefe said. “The implementation of this vision is a fitting contribution not only to the people of Baltimore but also, in this Ignatian year, to the worldwide Jesuit educational network. I am confident your model will be replicated elsewhere. Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam.”