St. Mary’s high school to remain open through the 2019-2020 school year

Left to right: Bishop Mitchell Rozanski, Father Matt Alcombright, and Superintendent Daniel Baillargeon (speaking) during the announcement regarding the future of the Catholic high school (Photo by Peter Currier)

WESTFIELD- Representatives of St. Mary’s High School and the Springfield Diocese made the announcement Tuesday evening that the Catholic school will remain open for at least the 2019-2020 school year.

Father Matt Alcombright, Bishop Mitchell Rozanski and Diocese School Superintendent Daniel Baillargeon made the announcement in front of a crowd of 200 people in the St. Mary’s High School gym. Rozanski spoke from a letter he wrote that was distributed to attendees afterwards.

“It is clear, then, that the St. Mary’s parish community needs time to undertake a complete analysis to determine the best model of education moving forward,” said Rozanski, “In order to provide this time and keep the positive momentum, the diocese will provide resources so that St. Mary’s Parish High School will be open for the 2019-2020 school year.”

Rozanski added that the only condition to be placed on the school during this period is that it develops a ‘sustainable model of education to serve the families of the greater Westfield area for the foreseeable future.’

St. Mary’s High School was on the verge of closing last year before an effort was made to keep the school open for at least the 2018-2019 school year. The requirement set at that time was that a minimum of 30 Freshman students be enrolled for the fall 2019 school year and each school year following. Rozanski said that difficult decisions may have to be made to determine what is sustainable for the school.

“It is no secret that the model we are currently running is not sustainable with the enrollment,” said Father Matt Alcombright, “we need to keep going and work very hard on enrollment, on recruitment and on retention.”

Dr. Daniel Baillargeon, superintendent of schools for the Springfield Diocese, addressed the crowd as well.

“As father Matt mentioned, there are some models around, especially as high school enrollments have declined across the country,” said Baillargeon, “there is blended learning, there is an integration of technology, virtual classrooms and other models such as classic education.”

Bishop Rozanski later said that they made this announcement in January with the thought that this is the time when students may be considering enrollment for the next school year.

“They needed to know that things would move forward here with St. Mary’s,” said Rozanski.

The financial commitment from the Springfield Diocese for this school year was $300,000, according to Rozanski. He added that they would look at this number further as they assess the future needs of the school.

The crowd in the St. Mary’s High School gym before the announcement. (Photo by Peter Currier)

“There is no bottomless pot of money for the diocese,” said Rozanski, “that’s why we need to look at sustainability for the school.”

Rozanski and Alcombright also addressed the need for transportation of students west of the Connecticut river. Alcombright said that they would examine the need as the school seeks to serve the hill towns and surrounding area.

No specific enrollment requirements were announced as a prerequisite for the school to remain open. Rozanski said that they would come up with a number based on what kind of educational model they choose for the school going forward. He named several models that would range from a focus on education of the classics to a more science and technology-based education.

“Sometimes for a school it makes it more attractive,” said Alcombright, “this is different than the regular streamlined high school.”

Rozanski noted that the upcoming Freshman class at Pope Francis High School in Springfield is bigger than the outgoing senior class. Alcombright added that the enrollment for St. Mary’s is up significantly from last year. He hopes that there will be further enrollment now that students and parents know the school will be open next year.

“What do they say? Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results,” said Rozanski, “We’re looking at what are different models that will be sustainable. It’s not as if we’re throwing up our hands. We’re asking what can be different and what can be possible.”

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