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Springfield Bishop To Announce Plans For Tornado Damaged High School

Catholic Communications, Diocese of Springfield

The fate of a Catholic high school wrecked when a tornado barreled through Springfield, Massachusetts almost four years ago will be announced later this afternoon.

   Bishop Mitchell Rozanski is scheduled to make the highly anticipated announcement of whether Cathedral High School will be rebuilt at 2:30 p.m.  A spokesman for the diocese put out information Saturday night on the scheduling of the announcement.

   Citing declining enrollment and increasing subsidies from the diocese to cover the school’s operating expenses, Rozanski, last November, ordered a study to determine Cathedral’s future.  

   Four weeks ago, Rozanski said a tentative plan had been reached, but he refused to disclose details until he fulfilled his due diligence on the draft plan that he said addressed how to continue Catholic secondary education in Springfield and continue the legacy and mission of  130-year-old Cathedral High School.

  " I'm optimistic that this plan can be successfully implemented," Rozanski said on Jan. 26.

   Diocesan officials were tightlipped over the weekend about the draft plan, deferring to Rozanski and the scheduled 2:30 p.m. announcement.

   Rozanski held two days of workshops in late January with 15 people who have a stake in Cathedral including educators, parents, alumni, and neighbors in Springfield’s East Forest Park neighborhood, where the current school was built in 1959.

  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, teachers, and neighbors, has staged rallies and vigils as part of a campaign to convince Rozanski to rebuild the school.

       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.

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

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

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.
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