Local News Archive
Print Issue: January 3, 2002
Athens Is Site For Independent Catholic High School
By Rebecca Rakoczy, Staff Writer
ATHENSNow the hard work begins.
After years of planning, a Catholic high school will be built in Athens. If fund-raising objectives are met, the school could open by fall 2004 or earlier.
The new high school will be completely self-supporting and will not be funded by the Archdiocese of Atlanta. But it will be operated as a regional school under the site-based management principles adopted by the archdiocesan Department of Education, according to Stephen Holton, of ISC, who worked as an advisor on the project. ISC has been retained by the archdiocese to come up with new cost-efficient models for providing Catholic education in metro Atlanta, he said. Archbishop John F. Donoghue has approved the new high school going forward.
The school will be located in northwest Athens off Lavender Road on 104 acres, less than five miles away from St. Josephs Elementary School. The property was purchased three years ago by the nonprofit corporation Northeast Georgia Catholic High School, Inc. NEGCHS is a separate, nonprofit company that was structured to allow the use of bond financing, Holton said.
The idea of a Catholic high school has been a dream for many people here. St. Josephs School has been providing K-8 Catholic education for 52 years and is expected to be the main feeder school for the high school, he said. According to a case statement prepared by NEGCHS, parents of students at St. Josephs School, other concerned parents of school-aged children, Catholic and non-Catholic, and university, corporate and government interests in the Athens-Clarke County metropolitan area have expressed a strong wish for the establishment of a comprehensive Catholic high school.
Tom Scott, vice chairman of the NEGCHS board, attended St. Josephs School in Athens as a boy. He is looking forward to seeing thecontinuation of Catholic education in the area.
Although the Athens area has two private schools which include secondary grades, neither is Catholic.
The new high school will be a great opportunity for Athens, he said. A town of our size should have a K-12 Catholic educational option; its good for business, good for our students and good for the church. Were excited about the archbishops decision to move forward, and ask for the support of northeast Georgia Catholics to make this school a reality.
Barbara Dooley and her husband, Vince, athletic director at the University of Georgia, are parishioners of St. Josephs Church and are serving as the chairpersons of the high school development campaign. The minimum fund-raising goal is $3 million before opening. Currently NEGCHS has raised $1.6 million in private donations toward that goal.
An awful lot of people persevered for a long while for this, said Terry Trotochaud, who also serves on the NEGCHS board, and whose children graduated from St. Josephs School.
The self-sustaining model is the first of its kind in the archdiocese and will operate independently, but under the normal guidelines applicable to other archdiocesan schools, Holton said. Enrollment is anticipated to start at 50 students in ninth and tenth grade the first year of operation, although the school could operate fiscally at 30-32 students.
NEGCHS set basic tenets for the new school. Some of those tenets include establishing a comprehensive co-educational college preparatory school that will:
Administer a rigorous, challenging and integrated curriculum rooted in Gospel values and Catholic teachings;
Instill self-discipline by teaching students to accept responsibility for their actions and to respect others; and welcome and support a diverse racial, cultural, and socio-economic population, and
Provide well-organized and coordinated fine arts, physical education and athletic programs.
All archdiocesan standards and curriculum will be followed, said Holton. The only difference is, the archdiocese is not taking full responsibility for funding the school, he said.
Judith Mucheck, superintendent of Catholic schools, said that the Athens community will go through the same exercises of planning the academic and extracurricular scope of the new high school that Blessed Trinity High School, Roswell, and Our Lady of Mercy High School, Fairburn, did.
But while those two schools had funding from the archdiocese, the Athens model will not.
Our charge from the archbishop was to find new models to allow us to educate as many new children with a Catholic education, said Gareth Genner, also of ISC. The school is a hybrid of sorts, he said. It is not owned by the archdiocese, but authorized by the archbishop to operate as a Catholic high school.
We are using no loan monies whatsoever from the archdiocese, he said. The concept is that they (NEGCHS) will look for banking support which is local (Athens).
There were several objectives that had to be met before the project was given the archdiocesan stamp of approval.
One of the objectives of the (NEGCHS) board was to serve as many Catholic children as they could, knowing the limitations on tuition assistance, said Genner. Instead, they are focusing investment on faculty, not impressive design. It will be functional, attractive and safe, but this will not start off with the campus that Athens Academy enjoys. (Athens Academy is a private, secular school in the area.)
The parents well see enrolling in this school are looking for a Catholic environment and education. That was shown to be critical in the survey work that has been done, Holton said.
He added that the archdiocese has made a commitment that it will be an accredited school. This school will have all the facilities it needs to develop the education these children need. The quality of academics will be no different (than St. Pius X High School). The main difference will be the buildings.
Holton added that he expected Catholic Construction Services to provide some advisory assistance on the project. We are looking at pre-engineered construction to decrease construction costs and time, he said.
Tom Scott, Barbara Dooley, Terry Trotochaud and Richard Dunn worked hard to put the structure in place and are excited about making this school a reality, Holton said.
Trotochaud said, A lot of folks can be thanked for (getting this project this far). Right now our focus will be on the fund raising, since we are raising money for both the physical plant and operational money.
This has been the dream of quite a few people, but now the hard work starts.