Even before the 2011 tornado battered Cathedral High School in Springfield, Massachusetts, enrollment in Catholic schools was shrinking. Now, a multi-million dollar high school is about to open.
Having the funds to run the school will depend on tuition payments.
The $54 million Pope Francis Preparatory School, which combines Cathedral High with Holyoke Catholic, was largely funded by Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA, and insurance from tornado damage.
Tuition, endowment from the Springfield diocese and fundraising pays teacher salaries and the cost of running the new building.
"It is spectacular," said Paul Gagliarducci, executive director of the Pope Francis project. He said the open-concept building was designed for as many as 500 students, and feels more like a college than a high school.
"This facility in itself will start to bring more and more students back," said Gagliarducci. "And they actually exceeded some of their numbers that they had originally looked at, especially in terms of transfer students."
About 350 students are enrolled so far. The target goal is 400 students.