The Boys’ Latin School, a 175-year-old North Baltimore private school, has purchased 28 acres of an adjacent property in Poplar Hill with plans to use it to add boarding and expand environmental programs.
School leaders announced Tuesday that they plan to open the area’s only seven-day boarding school for boys on land formerly owned by the Society of St. Joseph of the Sacred Heart, an order of Catholic priests and brothers. Boy’s Latin paid $5.5 million for the property, which is on the south side of Lake Avenue, next to Boys’ Latin’s elementary and middle schools.
The Josephite property has several existing buildings, including a 20-year-old long-term care facility for retired priests. Its 20 dorm rooms, where the priests lived, will house 40 students. Each room includes a bathroom. Large common areas will be renovated to provide more housing for faculty.
Boys’ Latin expects to begin renovating that 40,000-square-foot building soon and complete it by the end of the year. A small addition to that building for faculty housing is the only new construction currently being considered. The first boarders will arrive in the fall of 2021.
"We view this as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to nearly double the size of our campus ... to do things that we haven’t even dreamed of yet,” said headmaster Chris Post.
It’s not clear what’s happening to the retired priests who lived on the property. With a doctor and two registered nurses on staff, the Josephite property housed and cared for 17 retired priests and one brother, according to the society’s website.
The Catholic order did not respond to a request for comment.
Boy’s Latin, founded in 1844, moved to the current location in the 1960s. It purchased land south of Lake Avenue in the 1970s to create its current 42-acre campus.
Post said adding boarding will allow Boys’ Latin to accept more foreign students, who can offer a more global perspective to the school. The school already has students from China, South Korea and Italy. The school is hoping to formalize and expand partnerships it already has with boys’ schools in Australia and New Zealand.
“This initiative is for students regionally, nationally and internationally,” Post said.
The boarding school also would allow alumni from across the country to send their children to Boys’ Latin, he said.
Post declined to detail how the fundraising for the project is going or what the goals would be. The school is expected to spend at least a couple of million dollars more renovating the property, he said.
The school currently enrolls about 600 students, and Post said it is not planning an expansion of its student body. The boarding students would be incorporated into the current classes, he said.
The project also will provide land for elementary and middle schools to explore the natural habitats and ecosystems of the property’s rolling hills, lawn and wooded areas.
Post said an open area near Lake Avenue may begin to be used as early as this spring by middle and elementary students for gym classes.
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Neighbors were delighted by the notion of using the green space and woods for environmental education programs, and Boys’ Latin accommodated their main priority — maintaining those natural features — in its plans, said Jay Newman, president of the Poplar Hill Association.
The school kept the neighborhood in the loop, reaching out early and often for feedback, he said.
“Boys’ Latin was very proactive and worked very closely with the neighborhood association and neighbors to make sure their plan fit in with the unique, wooded section of this part of Baltimore City,” Newman said. “It keeps the neighborhood the special place it is.”
The school’s purchase of the Josephite property for a boarding facility was “a very strategic and forward-thinking move,” said Peter Baily, executive director of the Association of Independent Maryland and D.C. Schools, which counts Boys’ Latin among the association’s 120 members.
Even without significantly growing the student body, offering boarding will allow Boys’ Latin to enroll more diverse students from outside the Baltimore region, or even from abroad, he said.
“When one has a strong program to offer, as Boys’ Latin does, it’s always exciting to think about making that kind of program more readily available to a larger group of students,” Baily said. “It also comes with building structures that will lend themselves readily to a conversion for student use.”