July 25, 2014

Archdiocese explores possibility for new Catholic high school south of Indianapolis

By John Shaughnessy

As a new school year nears, the archdiocese continues to explore the feasibility of a new Catholic high school south of Indianapolis.

Information sessions at the 13 parishes that could potentially send students to a new Catholic high school have already begun this summer and will continue into August.

Members of those parishes have also been invited to take part in focus group meetings scheduled for Aug. 12-14 at St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Bloomington, St. Bartholomew Parish in Columbus and SS. Francis and Clare of Assisi Parish in Greenwood.

The information sessions and the focus group meetings are the most recent parts of a process that began in the summer of 2013 when Bishop Christopher J. Coyne, vicar general of the archdiocese, approved the formation of a committee to “explore the possibility and the need for a new Catholic high school south of Indianapolis.”

“The high school farthest south in Indianapolis is Roncalli, and we don’t have another high school until Father Michael Shawe Memorial in Madison and Our Lady of Providence in Clarksville,” says Gina Fleming, a committee member and the superintendent of Catholic schools for the archdiocese. “A large portion of our Catholic families in that area don’t have an option for a Catholic education at the high school level.”

Fleming noted that the feasibility study is in its first phase: exploring the possibility of a high school south of Indianapolis, and the potential location or locations for it.

“If we find there is potential in both of those considerations, we’ll move into phase two, which will explore the funding of a high school,” Fleming says. “Phase three would be the implementation of a new high school.”

Four potential locations have already been identified for a new Catholic high school. One is in the Bloomington-Bedford area while another is in the Columbus-Seymour area. A third possibility is an archdiocesan-owned property in Greenwood just east of Ind. 37 at Mullinex and Olive Branch roads.

“The other possible location is somewhere along Whiteland Road between I-65 South and State Road 37,” Fleming says.

The archdiocese is being assisted in phase one of the feasibility study by Meitler Consultants, Inc., a Milwaukee-based company that has consulted with more than 2,000 schools and 500 parishes across the country.

The estimated cost of Meitler’s work on phase one of the study is $30,000—a sum that will be paid through the contributions of several private donors and a matching grant from the archdiocese, according to Fleming.

Three important considerations will be examined during phase one of the study. First, will there be sufficient enrollment for an incoming freshman class? Second, what impact would a new Catholic high school have on existing Catholic high schools? Third, can a new Catholic high school be sustained?

Another key part of the first phase of the study will take place in September and October when surveys are distributed to members of the 13 parishes who could potentially send students to a new Catholic high school.

Survey questions will be finalized after the focus group sessions, but they will likely include such concerns as an acceptable level of tuition and the amount of acceptable time to drive to a school.

“We are anticipating that Meitler will have their findings about phase one back to us by December,” Fleming says.

While the findings will be considered with great interest, the archdiocese will still have the final decision about a possible new Catholic high school.

Fleming also notes that a significant factor in the archdiocese’s decision is that a new high school should have the effect of giving more students the opportunity to have a Catholic high school education and not just redistribute students already enrolled in Catholic high schools.

“We provide exceptional Catholic education at Roncalli, Shawe Memorial and Our Lady of Providence,” she says. “We’re excited about the possibility of perhaps providing similar experiences and programming to more students.”

The interest in a possible new Catholic high school was initially broached with the archdiocese by a group from SS. Francis and Clare of Assisi Parish in Greenwood where the enrollment of the parish school has soared in recent years to about 560 students in its preschool to eighth-grade classes. Since that initial contact, other parishes across central and southern Indiana with interest in the possibility have joined the discussion.

“We’re thrilled we have representatives from the Roncalli High School staff and several parish elementary schools on our committee,” Fleming says. “All of them provide great insight and experience on what quality Catholic education can and should look like.”

If the decision is eventually made to have a new Catholic high school, “it will be an archdiocesan Catholic school,” Fleming says.

“The overarching motivation of the archdiocese and the representatives from these parishes is to provide quality Catholic education to all who desire it. As with all of our Catholic schools, the mission is first and foremost to teach our Catholic faith.” †

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