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Pope Francis High School Gets Accreditation, Groundbreaking Set

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Diocese of Springfield
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   Two events have been scheduled to lead up to the start of construction this fall for a new regional Catholic high school in western Massachusetts.      

    A groundbreaking ceremony for the new Pope Francis High School has been scheduled for September 18th in Springfield at the site of the former Cathedral High School that was destroyed by the June 1, 2011 tornado.  A meeting has been scheduled for August 23 to brief residents of the East Forest Park neighborhood on the school construction project.

   The new high school is the product of a merger of Cathedral and Holyoke Catholic high schools. The merger become official July 1.

   The start of construction has been anxiously awaited in the neighborhood and in Springfield City Hall.  Mayor Domenic Sarno has insisted it is vital that a new high school be built on the former Cathedral site.

  " This is the last piece of the puzzle I have for tornado rebuilding," said Sarno.

  After the tornado destroyed the 60-year-old Cathedral campus, there was a real possibility the third-largest city in Massachusetts might not have a Catholic high school.  Cathedral classes were relocated to a former elementary school in suburban Wilbraham.

While Cathedral students, parents, and alumni campaigned to have the school rebuilt at its old site, and elected officials including Congressman Richard Neal lobbied for it publicly, and privately, a prolonged review was taking place by top officials of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield.

Diocesan officials publicized enrollment figures and questioned if a standalone Cathedral High School could survive. 

Early last year, Bishop Mitchell Rozanski announced the merger of the two Catholic schools and a few months later said a search for a site to build the new high school had led back to the former Cathedral property.

" There were few substantial differences between each site under final consideration. The factor tipping the scales was that the Surrey Road site came to us as owned by the diocese," Rozanski said when he announced the building site.

Education consultant Paul Gagliarducci is directing the Pope Francis school construction project and is scheduled to attend the neighborhood meeting on Aug. 23.

" We are excited about the potential of bringing Pope Francis High School to a reality in many many ways," said Gagliarducci.

Diocesan officials say the new building is scheduled to be ready for the 2018-19 academic year. Until then, Pope Francis High School will be located at the Holyoke Catholic school site in Chicopee.

It was announced Tuesday that the New England Association of Schools and Colleges had extended the legacy schools’ accreditation to cover Pope Francis.  A spokeswoman said this will assure prospective students, and their parents, that the new high school meets rigorous academic standards.

           

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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