By Bonnie Adams, Managing Editor
Worcester – With last December’s announcement that Holy Name Jr/Sr High School and St. Peter-Marian Jr/Sr High School were merging into a new Catholic school, no one expected the process to be a completely smooth one.
After all, both schools had a rich and proud legacy of serving students in Worcester County. Still, it was a decision that Bishop Robert J. McManus and other Catholic school leaders determined would make the regional Catholic school community stronger for present and future students alike. “We had to right-size our model,” said Michael J. Clark, the Head of School of the newly formed Saint Paul Diocesan Jr/Sr High School, “and truly provide the best quality secondary school experience in the diocese.”
The decision was made to use the former Holy Name campus at 144 Granite Street, Worcester, for the new school. Extensive renovations took place over the summer in preparing for the nearly 600 students set to attend in the fall.
But as administrators set to merge the two schools, there was yet another significant obstacle they had to overcome. That, of course, was the coronavirus pandemic.
“That definitely made things challenging,” Clark admitted. “But we have such a dedicated staff who worked so hard to get Saint Paul ready and make it safe for everyone. When I think of where we were through the middle of last December, then mid-March with COVID, and now, it’s nothing short of a miracle.”
The Saint Paul mission
Saint Paul, as stated on its website, “is a co-educational, multicultural, faith-filled Catholic Community rooted in God’s love and the Joy of the Gospel.”
“Graduates of Saint Paul will be intellectually prepared to pursue higher education studies, ethically formed to live morally responsible lives, and spiritually motivated to live out their faith as they use their knowledge to improve the world in service to others,” the statement continues.
Students primarily live in Worcester County, with about 7 percent of the student body comprised of international students. The school offers a challenging and enriching education as well as extracurricular activities in the performing arts, athletics, campus ministry and many other clubs and organizations.
The annual cost for grades 7-8 is $8,800 and grades 9-12 is $9,500 for the 2020-2021 academic year. Nearly 55 percent of families received some form of need-based tuition assistance last year with over $1,000,000 in financial assistance provided. Along with need-based considerations, merit (academic) aid is also made available.
A new year, a new way of learning
More than a month into its inaugural year, Saint Paul students and staff are adjusting well, Clark said. The students are grouped into cohorts with the “Alpha” cohort on campus Mondays and Tuesdays, and the “Bravo” cohort on Thursdays and Fridays. Facility deep cleaning is done on Wednesdays when all students are at home and online for virtual classes.
Adding to the students’ experience are the many familiar teachers they had in past years. “We have a veteran staff,” Clark said. “They’re committed. They understand kids and Catholic education in a profound way.”
He praised Saint Paul teachers for virtually “opening their homes to students” as they teach with the hybrid model.
Amanda Popp, Saint Paul Director of Enrollment, noted the adaptability of students and staff during the pandemic. “They’ve be great, finding ways to do school in new ways,” Popp said. Though welcoming prospective students and families onto campus is a fall tradition for many schools, social distancing limits doing so. Instead, Saint Paul will host two virtual open houses where families can log on to meet administration and department chairs. The school will also hold in-person entrance exams consistent with state recommended protocols.
The virtual open houses will be held on Thursday, Nov. 5 and Thursday, Nov. 19 at 6:30 p.m.
The entrance exams will be held on Saturday, Nov. 14 and Saturday, Dec. 5.
Registration for both events can be found on the Saint Paul website www.SaintPaulKnights.org