New School Opening 7 Years After Tornado Destroyed Catholic High School

By Alysha Palumbo
Published at 6:51 PM EDT on May 7, 2018 | Updated at 7:36 PM EDT on May 7, 2018

It’s been seven years since Cathedral High School in Springfield was destroyed, as a tornado tore a path right through the Catholic school.

But out of the devastation, a community came together – merging Cathedral with nearby Holyoke Catholic – and creating a new vision for learning with a new name – Pope Francis Preparatory School.

Paul Viccica, a principal at designer CBT Architects said, “Everybody was very depressed about the fact we had lost an institution in Springfield, we sort of looked at it as a pretty amazing opportunity to reinvent what a school could be for this community.”

Instead of long corridors with lockers and isolated classrooms, Pope Francis has a state-of-the-art, open-concept design, focused around “STEAM” learning – or science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics.

Paul Harrington, the head of the school said, “We don’t want students to be isolated to confined spaces, but the idea of flexible use of space is really going to inform our learning and how we teach, it’s almost going to flip it upside down.”

The design also celebrates the heritage of both schools, and the union they’ve now formed.

Viccica said, “At the top of the civic stairs here, there is a history of Holyoke Catholic and then Cathedral and ultimately when they’re together Pope Francis, so that’s a history that will evolve and actually be created in the future.”

And from the brand new athletic fields, to the sleek building design, Pope Francis Prep is filling a hole in the heart of Springfield’s Catholic community, as well as the neighborhood where Cathedral once stood.

“I think we’re a beacon of hope, a beacon of light,” said Harrington, “it was here for so many years and there was such a rich history of Catholic education and to be back in this neighborhood is really what I think people want to see.”

Construction is expected to be completed in July, and the school will open its doors for its first class on August 27.

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