Recruitment event to offer sneak preview of Pope Francis High School in Springfield

Gallery: Pope Francis High School Construction 80 percent complete.

SPRINGFIELD — Splashes of cardinal-red paint in honor of the school mascot dot the walls, floor-to-ceiling windows frame every classroom and brand-new tennis courts and a baseball diamond and outdoor stadium await students who will attend the new Pope Francis High School when it opens in August.

Construction of the $54.4 million school at the intersection of Wendover and Surrey roads is almost 80 percent complete.

While passers-by admire the sturdy red exterior of the building rising on the spot where the tornado-ravaged Cathedral High School once stood, prospective students and their parents will get a rare opportunity to peek inside the new school during a student recruitment event set for 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday, March 24.

Head of School Paul Harrington said he’s looking forward to the student and parent preview of the state-of-the art facility, whose design makes it feel more like a college. Harrington said  the school’s curriculum will be designed to help students prepare for college life — “and hopefully a spot in heaven.”

A chapel is under construction on the first floor of the building near the school entrance and an open-concept learning commons. Harrington said the chapel will include the names of the Sisters of St. Joseph, who dedicated their careers to teaching in diocesan schools.

The Preview Day event is geared for eighth-graders sizing up their high school choices and high schoolers considering a transfer. Groups of parents and students will rotate through four presentations focusing on the following: Cardinal pride, athletics wellness, academics and educational technology, and student life, according to Dianne Regnier, assistant to Harrington.

Regnier said there will be no traditional tour of the space. “Essentially, the tour is built into the format of the program,” she said.

Pope Francis — the result of a merger between Cathedral High School and Holyoke Catholic High School –is operating out of the former Holyoke Catholic Building in Chicopee while the new school is under construction.

There are currently 330 students enrolled in Pope Francis, Harrington said.

The goal is to enroll 85 freshmen for the start of the upcoming school year, for a total of 330 to 340 students, he said.

There is room to grow since maximum capacity at the new school is 500 students, Harrington said.

If St. Mary’s High School in Westfield is closed as planned, Pope Francis would be  the only Catholic secondary school in Western Massachusetts.

Families and students who want to attend must register by going to the school’s website or contacting Admissions Director Ann Rivers at 413-331-2480, ext. 1132.

During a tour of the interior of the building earlier this month, Harrington highlighted some of its features:

  • A two-story open space, punctuated with Starbucks-style seating, framed by glass-enclosed faculty offices and a “legacy wall” highlighting the history of Cathedral and Holyoke Catholic High School, whose merger created Pope Francis
  • A dining commons adjacent to the learning space
  • A fully wired building where students will each have their own Microsoft Service Pro laptop
  • A state-of-the art theater
  • An art room with a kiln
  • A television studio
  • A gymnasium with a red entrance, reflecting the color of the school sports mascot

Regnier said there will be additional opportunities for prospective students to learn about the new school and urged those interested to contact Rivers.

“We anticipate hosting several events throughout the fall for our alumni, families and friends to visit and to celebrate the school,” she said.

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