The High School From 'The Keepers' Is Closing


At first glance, The Keepers seems to be a true-crime documentary about the murder of Sister Cathy Cesnik, who was a teacher at the Archbishop Keough High School in Baltimore in the 1960s. Yet, The Keepers also focuses on the allegations of sexual abuse at the all-girls high school that the series theorizes may have led to Sister Cathy's death. As Netflix's latest documentary is sure to have people horrified about not only what happened to this young nun, but also about the claims of the students at the Catholic high school, you'll want to know what happened to Archbishop Keough after The Keepers. And while a version of this high school does exist today, it will be closing shortly after The Keepers premieres on May 19 — although the school being shut down has nothing to do with Netflix series.

In 1988, two Baltimore-based, all-girls Catholic schools — Archbishop Keough High School and Seton High School — merged to form Seton Keough High School. According to Seton Keough High School's history page, Archbishop Keough High School was opened in 1965 and named after Francis Patrick Keough, the Archbishop of Baltimore from 1947 to 1961. This school was opened because of the high demand for Catholic schools at the time, and it's a huge focus of The Keepers. That's because the chief spiritual and psychological counselor of the school, Father Joseph Maskell, has been accused of heinous acts of sexual assault by many women who attended the school in the 1960s and 1970s, according to The Huffington Post. According to the Baltimore Sun, Maskell denied the accusations until his death in 2001 and he was never charged in connection with Cesnik's murder.

Cesnik taught English and drama at Archbishop Keough High School, but the Huffington Post reported that she had left her job there and moved to Western High School by the fall of 1969 — before her murder in November of that same year. The Keepers focuses on some alumni of Archbishop Keough who believe the 26-year-old nun was murdered because she allegedly knew of the claims of sexual abuse and had tried to help her students.

Although Archbishop Keough has a new name, the school's dark past will be featured in The Keepers. When Bustle reached out for comment from the school, the Archdiocese of Baltimore (who oversees the school) provided the following statement acknowledging the allegations against Father Maskell.

Since the 1990s, when the Archdiocese of Baltimore first learned of an allegation of child sexual abuse against Maskell, and on numerous occasions since, the Archdiocese has publicly acknowledged and apologized for the horrific abuse committed by him. The Archdiocese reported the allegations to civil authorities in the 1990s and cooperated fully in any investigation, removed Father Maskell’s faculties to function as a priest, apologized to victims and offered them counseling assistance, sought additional victims, and provided direct financial assistance to 16 individuals abused by Maskell.
Though it was unaware of the abuse at the time it occurred approximately 50 years ago, the Archdiocese deeply regrets the damage that was caused to those who were so badly harmed and has worked diligently since becoming aware of their abuse to bring some measure of healing to them. The Archdiocese is wholly committed to protecting children, holding abusers accountable — clergy and laity alike, and promoting healing for victims. These are hallmarks of the Archdiocese’s child protection efforts, which we strive to constantly strengthen.
There is no room in the Archdiocese for anyone who would harm a child and every effort must be made to ensure what happened before never happens again. It is our hope that The Keepers advances this pursuit, just as we hope the series helps those who have kept alive the memory of Sr. Cathy and our collective hope that justice will be won for her.

Along with the archdiocese's statement, The Baltimore Sun reported that The Keepers has prompted the president of Seton Keough High School, Donna Bridickas, to write a letter to the parents of the students. "We expect that the contents of this series will include adult themes and graphic descriptions, so we wanted to provide you with this information and suggest that you talk with your daughter about this series and consider watching it with her if she is going to watch it," Bridickas wrote in an email. The email also said the school will have counselors available to talk to the students about the documentary after it premieres.

Yet, shortly after The Keepers hits Netflix, the doors of Seton Keough will close forever. That's because, as the local CBS affiliate reported in October 2016, Seton Keough High School — along with two other schools, John Paul Regional and St. Thomas Aquinas — will be closing at the end of the 2017 school year. This isn't because of the information that will be presented in the documentary though — it's based on decreased enrollment and the aging buildings.

The chancellor and superintendent of Baltimore Catholic schools wrote in a Oct. 26, 2016 letter:

"Among the most difficult decisions we must make is the closure of Seton Keough High School at the conclusion of the current school year. The facility that houses Seton Keough opened in 1965 and can accommodate 1,200 students. This year, 186 girls attend the high school. With 47 seniors scheduled to graduate at the end of the current school year and a steady decline in overall enrollment at the school over the past several years, the school simply cannot continue operating with so few students."

So while a version of Archbishop Keough High School will be open when the seven-part documentary premieres on May 19, the school will close within a month of what is sure to be a sudden spike in national attention.