© 2024
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Catholic High Schools Merger Moving Forward

Catholic Communications, Diocese of Springfield

Multiple sites are being considered for the location of a new regional Catholic high school in western Massachusetts.  The new school will result from the merger of 130-year-old Cathedral High School and Holyoke Catholic High School.

      Springfield Bishop Mitchell Rozanski said in the two weeks since he announced the proposed merger he has met separately with the student bodies of both schools and started to assemble a group of advisors to work out the merger details. 

  " We are moving along quickly on that," said Rozanski.

     Rozanski, speaking with reporters Monday during a visit to a family center in Turners Falls, said four or five locations are being considered for the new high school, but he did not identify the sites.

   "I am hoping that within the next month-and-a-half to two months we will have announced a place where the school will be built," said Rozanski. " We are working on that. It is the number one goal."

   The proposal to merge the two schools resulted from a study Rozanski ordered last year to determine what should become of Cathedral High School, which was forced from its longtime home in Springfield by the June 1, 2011 tornado.  Classes are being held in a former elementary school in suburban Wilbraham.

   Holyoke Catholic is located in a former parish school in Chicopee.  The location lacks outdoor athletic fields and an auditorium.  

   Cathedral has 217 students. Officials say enrollment had been steadily declining for years and accelerated after the tornado left the school without a permanent home.  Holyoke Catholic’s enrollment is 245.   Rozanski said he envisions a new high school would have a capacity for 500-600 students.

    Rozanski said during his meetings with the students they asked insightful questions about how the merger would affect their respective schools.

   " In both schools there were questions of concerns for the teachers. It shows the students love for the teachers and respect for the staff. I was very very touched by the students concern for the teachers," said Rozanski.

    Rozanski has tapped a former Massachusetts school superintendent Paul Gagliarducci to lead the initiative to merge the schools and pick a location to construct the new high school.

   "I know it is a very emotional and political situation, but the bishop wants me to look beyond today to ten, fifteen, twenty years from now to make sure we make the right decision," said Gagliarducci.

    Emotions run high among alumni of Cathedral High School, who with the support of Springfield’s political leadership, want a new high school built on the former Cathedral site on Surrey Road.

    Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno has taken a hard line about the site selection.  He said he was surprised two weeks ago to learn that locations outside Springfield were being looked at. Sarno said he authorized spending $1.3 million to bus Cathedral students to Wilbraham with the expectation the tornado-ruined school would be rebuilt.

" The only question after the tornado was whether the diocese would stay in the business of Catholic secondary education, and if they did they would rebuild on Surrey Road," said Sarno.

Chicopee Mayor Richard Kos would like to see the new high school built in his city.  Kos has sent a presentation to the diocese suggesting the new school be built at the former Uniroyal tire plant.  Millions of dollars have been spent over the last several years to demolish buildings and make the former industrial site ready for redevelopment.

" What we have tried to do is afford the diocese, the bishop, and his committee another option," said Kos.

A spokesman for the diocese confirmed church-owned property on Brush Hill in West Springfield was also under consideration as a possible site for the new high school.

The diocese plans to use proceeds from a $50 million insurance settlement for tornado damage and funds from FEMA to build the new school.

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.
Related Content