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School board approves expansion of Mount Washington Elementary

The city school board approved Tuesday night a plan to lease one of the 13 school buildings closed by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore earlier this year so that Mount Washington Elementary School can expand to serve middle-school grades.

Under the plan, the school would move some grades into the former building of the Shrine of the Sacred Heart School beginning next fall. School officials hope to increase the school's capacity in elementary grades and provide relief at Roland Park Elementary-Middle School, which has absorbed about 80 percent of Mount Washington Elementary's rising sixth-graders since 2006.

The Archdiocese advertised a request for proposals to lease the former Catholic school, and Baltimore schools submitted a winning bid to lease the school for $14,500 a month for 10 years and to provide maintenance. The school system also agreed to replace a $50,000 boiler at the school.

"We are pleased that this partnership seems to be coming together," said Sean Caine, communications director for the archdiocese. "We feel it will be a benefit to both the Mount Washington community and the parish."

Mount Washington, which serves prekindergarten through fifth grade, is operating at 101 percent of capacity, officials said, and struggling to accommodate a growing demand for seats, particularly in prekindergarten. The expanded school will accommodate approximately 200 more students.

The high-performing school is one of the best in the city, and its popularity has long presented the need for an expansion to serve prekindergarten through eighth grades, school officials said. Parents and Mount Washington staff cheered when the board approved the plans.

Laura Weeldreyer, deputy chief of staff for city schools, told the board that the expansion into the Sacred Heart building was "precedent-setting" and could lead to future deals between the school system and the archdiocese.

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