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Cathedral High School Backers Encouraged By Bishop's Latest Announcement


The leader of the Roman Catholic Church in western Massachusetts says there is a tentative plan concerning the fate of historic Cathedral High School in Springfield.  Although details have not been disclosed, advocates for rebuilding the tornado-ravaged school say they are encouraged.

      Bishop Mitchell Rozanski said the draft plan addresses how to continue Catholic secondary education in Springfield and how best to continue the legacy and mission of Cathedral — the city’s only Catholic high school.

    " I am optimistic that this plan can be successfully implemented," Rozanski said at a news conference.

     Rozanski said details of the plan won’t be disclosed until mid-February to afford him time to fulfill his due diligence. 

    The plan is the end result of Rozanski’s decision in mid-November to study whether Cathedral High School should be rebuilt in light of declining enrollment and increasing subsidies from the diocese to cover the school’s operating costs.

     "Any investment in a school building has to be long-term," Rozanski said.  " I know many places have five-year plans, but for this we need a fifty-year plan."

     The bishop held two days of what were described as “problem solving workshops” last weekend with 15 people who have a stake in Cathedral including educators, parents, alumnae and neighbors in Springfield’s East Forest Park Neighborhood, where the current school was built in 1959. 

   " I can not begin to say how proud I was of the discussions that took place. The tone and the outlook were optimistic and allowed for thinking outside of the box to come up with a plan," Rozanski stated.

    Classes for Cathedral students have been held in a former elementary school in the Springfield suburb of Wilbraham since the Cathedral building took a direct hit from the June 1, 2011 tornado.  The diocese last March announced a $50 million insurance settlement and a $38 million agreement with FEMA that could be put toward rebuilding the school.

      Cathedral-backers including Massachusetts Congressman Richard Neal and Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno have urged the bishop to rebuild the school at its long-time Surrey Road address.

  The Committee for Cathedral Action, a collection of alumni, parents and neighbors, said it was encouraged by the bishop’s statement that a plan at least now exists.

   Al DiLascia, the chairman of the committee, said he has researched 21 Catholic high schools in New England and believes a new Cathedral High School will draw students and not put a burden on the diocese’s finances so long as certain steps are taken.

  " In the business world we study other businesses, learn from them and apply the good things to our own company. We can learn from other examples of successful Catholic schools," said DiLascia.

  The activists have also raised the possibility of taking the school private.

"It can be done independently of the diocese if it takes that to do it, " said DiLascia, who has vowed the grassroots activists will not accept any plan that does not include building a new Cathedral High School at the Surrey Road location.

  The diocese announced earlier this month that Cathedral classes would take place for at least one more academic year at the Wilbraham location.  Current enrollment is 217 students.

The record-setting tenure of Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno. The 2011 tornado and its recovery that remade the largest city in Western Massachusetts. The fallout from the deadly COVID outbreak at the Holyoke Soldiers Home. Those are just a few of the thousands and thousands of stories WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill has covered for WAMC in his nearly 17 years with the station.
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