By J. K. Schmid
Special to the AFRO
The Loyola Early Learning Center is expanding into a full-fledged school.
With the expansion comes a new name, the learning center has renamed itself the Loyola School.
Originally offering preschool and pre-K in 2017, Loyola is building on its years of successes to offer private Jesuit instruction to students of all ages. Loyola is adding kindergarten, first grade, second grade and on to fourth grade education, and in doing so will provide a free education to 200 low-income Baltimore families.
The AFRO attended an open house at St. Ignatius Church, where the Mount Vernon community could learn more about what’s coming.
“By the time we’re complete in 2025, we hope to have 200 children in the preschool and the elementary school,” Rev. William Watters, Society of Jesus told the AFRO. “The whole idea is to have 16 years of quality education for underserved children in the City of Baltimore. Most of them are children of color and they’re all on scholarship.”
The scholarships are valued at $15,000, providing year-round education for the children of Baltimore’s poor and working families. These scholarships are funded by parishioners and the broader Baltimore community.
The school will expand to include a row of townhomes across the street.
“We’re spreading our wings, we’re growing,” Watters said. “The buildings, which are going to be transformed into our elementary school, that’s going to take us two years for us to do that. So, we’re in the process of doing a capital campaign, working with an architect and contractor to transform those buildings.”
Plans call for keeping the townhouse facades. Construction is slated to begin in April or May, 2022, and complete in the Summer of 2023. The Loyola School’s preschool operates out of 801 St. Paul Street, the new kindergarten will open next week at St. Ignatius in a converted chapel.
“I’m excited this year,” Erica Meadows, Loyola School director said.
Ms. Meadow’s role as director functions the same as principal, she said. And with the new kindergarten space comes new programming.
“It’s much more academic, the Maryland State Department of Education said that we have to have English, Math, Science and Social Studies every day, plus we’ve added in Religion, Foreign Language, we’re doing Spanish, and Music,” Ms. Meadows said. “So, they’re gonna have a busy schedule.”
The new school promises exceptional student attention. Public schools require 20 or more students per teacher. Loyola is planning for five students per teacher.
“From the Catholic Jesuit perspective is the Latin phrase ‘cura personalis,’ which basically means the care for the person,” Ms. Meadows said. “So, don’t just treat the child as just another kid who gets dropped off. We look at their whole situation, their family, what’s going on with them at home, and we have a social worker who can reach out to the family. Because if they’re facing homelessness, unemployment, transportation issues, we have ways that we can work with families to try and help them improve their situation, so they can really focus their attention on getting their kids the best education possible.”
The school is overseen by a Board of Trustees. The board’s Secretary is Beverly A. Cooper, Vice President of the Reginald F. Lewis Foundation.
“Bev, we have to make sure our children get to know everything the world has to offer,” Cooper said Lewis often told her.
“This is the kind of school that gives our children all the world has to offer,” Ms. Cooper said. “As much as you can for two-to-five, now you can do it through fourth grade. Once they get out of fourth grade and go into fifth grade, they’ll be prepared and know the things the world has to offer, and the things they should attempt to get to know even better.”
Ms. Cooper was taught by the Oblate Sisters from first to twelfth grade. She is a graduate of Fordham University, another Jesuit school.
Shamika Thomas’s daughter started at Loyola in 2019 and the AFRO asked how she came to choose Loyola.
“It was free, first of all,” Ms. Thomas said. “Because childcare is very expensive, I researched and found this school online. It offered free childcare and I’ve loved all the teachers that she’s had so far. I’m looking forward to seeing the growth in her, growing along with the school as well.”
To view the original AFRO article, click here.