History & Tradition
Our Lady of Hope/St. Luke School is the only Catholic school located in the southeastern area of Baltimore County. The school provides education to students within five Catholic parishes throughout the region, including Our Lady of Hope Parish in Dundalk, St. Luke in Edgemere, St. Rita, Our Lady of Fatima and Sacred Heart of Mary. Prior to the 1940's, St. Rita was the only Catholic parish in the Dundalk area. In order to address the needs of the growing population after World War II, St. Rita established two mission churches, St. Adrian in Inverness and St. Mildred in Gray Manor. Effective June 3, 1948, Reverend Thomas Zinkand was appointed Pastor of both parishes, each a separate and distinct parish. He determined that the first need for the area was a Catholic School. A twenty-two acre tract of land was purchased on Lynch Road in 1950. Finally, in March, 1953, the children of St. Mildred and St. Adrian parishes, equipped with small sand shovels, helped Father Zinkand break ground for the school. Arrangements were made for the school to be staffed by the School Sisters of Notre Dame. Sister Mary Claverine SSND, the first Principal, and two Sisters arrived on August 14, 1954, to prepare for opening day on September 7, 1954. The school and convent were officially named “Our Lady of Hope ”. The school employed two sisters and three lay teachers. The enrollment for the first year numbered 221 students in kindergarten through grade four.
During the first three years, enrollment more than doubled and each year another grade was added as the first classes advanced. By 1957, half-day sessions were instituted to accommodate the growing number of students. Enrollment peaked in the 1962-63 school year with 852 students. Kindergarten was eliminated and expansion of the school building was imperative. In 1964, a new wing added to the existing structure. This addition housed eight classrooms, a principal’s office, nurse’s office, library, faculty room, and storage areas.
By 1980, with the downsizing of the Bethlehem Steel plant and stabilization of the area, enrollment leveled to fewer than 300 students. For 32 years, Father Zinkand’s dream of a tuition-free parish school had been realized. Unfortunately, rising inflation, a decrease in enrollment, and faculty changes that included more lay teachers required the implementation of tuition in September, 1986.
Kindergarten was reestablished in 1986. This provided a full-day program and prepared students to enter the first grade. Kindergarten proved to be successful and was expanded to two full-day programs in 1990. In 1989, St. Luke School in Edgemere was closed due to declining enrollment. Plans were made for those students to attend Our Lady of Hope. In September, 1989, Our Lady of Hope School welcomed 88 students from St. Luke Parish. In 1991, the school was officially renamed Our Lady of Hope/St. Luke School. Responding to the need for early childhood education, in 1995 a preschool program for 3 and 4 year olds was opened at the St. Luke Campus. In 2006 with the closing of St. Rita’s School and then in 2010 with the consolidation of 13 schools in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, Our Lady of Hope/St. Luke School welcomed students from St. Rita’s, Sacred Heart of Mary, and Our Lady of Fatima; OLH/SLS continues to provide a Catholic Elementary School education for the children in the Dundalk-Edgemere area.