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Tears Flow, Bells Toll As The Institute of Notre Dame Closes Its Doors Tuesday

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Tears flowed Tuesday as a Baltimore all-girls Catholic high school closed its doors due to what officials said was the lack of funds needed to keep the school open.

The bells tolled at the Institute of Notre Dame Tuesday at 3 p.m. marking its last day as alunma gathered outside the former high school adding to a growing memorial.

"I wanted to drown out the bells with the words and the song and the tradition. That was the point that we knew there was no coming back," Rosa Uddeme, of the Class of 1984, said.

For weeks, alumna of IND were hoping they could help keep the school opened.

"What IND instilled in us was to help others and to be community service advocates for others," Kimberly Forte, of the Class of 1985, said.

They gathered outside the school Sunday to pray for its continued operation after leaders announced its closure earlier this year.

"It's about 173 years of girls who walked through these halls, who were educated, who went out into the community to serve, and we think another 173 years of girls need to be walking the same halls," Drena Fretatta said Sunday.

But after 173 years, the school couldn't keep their doors open.

"Today is a hard day for both the Institute of Notre Dame and the School Sisters of Notre Dame. After 173 years we are bidding farewell to our beloved institution, and the place where our Blessed Mother Theresa made her dream of educating young girls a reality," said  IND's Head of School Christine E. Szala. "Our history and the legacy of our sisters will never be forgotten. We will take the memories with us and IND's spirit will live on in all of us. One mind. One heart. Mother Theresa pray for us."


In May, school leaders announced its closure, citing under-enrollment, millions of dollars in needed repairs and the impact of the coronavirus.

"We are looking as a group into what the school was struggling with… what is it as a group we can do to address these issues to stay open?" 2005 graduate Amanda Michael said.

Alumna reflected on the school's role in the Underground Railroad, caring for soldiers in the Civil War and empowering the young women of today.

In a letter to the school community and alumna, officials explained their decision, "We appreciate your passion and your desire to mount a massive fundraising effort, and we admire the tenacity you have
demonstrated in not wanting to give up."

IND officials said enrollment was down 43% from five years ago, despite gaining 75 students from Seton-Keough High school, which closed in June 2017. They also currently discounted their tuition by 30% and 90% of their students receive some assistance.

School officials also said the building would need $5 million in repairs and they would need $34 million to make their building a state-of-the-art facility.

They said the COVID-19 pandemic added more financial hardship.

"We have heard time and again from prospective families that our location is not desirable
and is an important factor in their decision to choose a different school," the school said.

"Based on the amounts raised in recent years, and knowing the amount of cash we need
immediately, it would be irresponsible of us to commit to opening in the fall. It would be a great
disservice to our students and our faculty and staff. And we cannot ask faculty and staff and
students to put their plans and their lives on hold, recognizing that success is very unlikely," the school said in a statement. "We have a responsibility and a desire to take care of our students and that means offering them the greatest opportunity to continue their education at another Catholic high school."

Read their full letter here.

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