St. Mary’s High School in Westfield. (Photo by Hope E. Tremblay)
WESTFIELD – St. Mary’s High School will offer students a unique education experience when it begins a university model schedule in the fall.
Principal Matthew Collins said instead of the current rotating daily seven-class schedule, classes would be more inline with a college schedule.
“There will be classes Monday, Wednesday and Friday for 60 minutes each and Tuesday and Thursday for 90 minutes each,” Collins said. “We are a college preparatory school already, but we are trying to really prepare kids for all aspects of college – academically as well as schedules, study habits and time management.”
The change comes on the heels of a reorganization of the school board, a study by a national Catholic school enrollment organization and the backing of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield. St. Mary’s is the only Diocesan high school in the region and Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski said last summer that the Diocese was fully committed to the school.
Collins said the new approach would allow teachers to take a deep dive into the content, resulting in a deeper understanding by students.
In addition to the schedule change, Collins said St. Mary’s High will be using the “great books” and getting back to teaching humanities.
“We will challenge students to read the great works and be proficient in writing,” said Collins. “This allows us to make deliberate connections between history, English and theology as well as math and science. This will create opportunities for planning time for teachers and develop lessons that cross-connect — it’s a nice web that connects teaching.”
St. Mary’s Board member Carol Lucardi said the change would also spark “more critical thinking.”
Collins said the university model would give local students another option.
“We have been working closely with the Diocese and they challenged us to find a model that’s sustainable and sets us apart,” said Collins. “This also allows home schooled students to come in and take a class and pay per class.”
Lucardi said it is a unique option.
“Rather than compete with what everyone else is doing, it gives students an advantage,” Lucardi said.
Collins said 98 percent of St. Mary’s graduates go on to a four-year college and this model will give them an edge.
“This schedule works well for students who want to do dual-enrollment and co-ops,” he said. “And we welcome kids who may not go on to college but want a good foundation.”
Collins and Lucardi both said Westfield Public Schools – and other surrounding districts – offer a solid education, but St. Mary’s offers an alternative.
“This is something different than the public school approach,” Collins said.
Enrollment at St. Mary’s is up 10 percent this year and Collins and board members expect this new model will attract more new students. The faculty has already begun preparing for the change.
“They’re excited,” Collins said. “We had a meeting followed by professional development and have identified other professional development that will help transition to the new model. It is a different approach. It allows teachers to be multi-model and meet needs of students through different teaching styles.”
Teachers will use lectures, cooperative learning and project-based learning to help students demonstrate their knowledge.
“This allows students to show what they’ve learned in another way, not just by taking a test,” said Lucardi.
St. Mary’s is hosting a Meet & Greet event Jan. 28 at 6 p.m. for potential students and their families.