Cathedral High expands to serve grades 7 and 8

SOUTH END -- By expanding its facilities to add a junior high program, officials at Boston’s Cathedral High School say they will be able to reach students earlier and better prepare them for college.

Cathedral High, which is located in the South End section of Boston and serves mostly students from Boston’s urban neighborhoods, announced at a press conference Feb. 4 that it will expand its facilities to include Grades 7 and 8 in the coming academic year.

Speaking at the press conference, Cathedral High’s headmaster Tom Arria said that implementing a junior high program will ensure that students are better prepared for high school and allow the existing high school program to be made more challenging.

“Our program of studies is going to set them on a course to take honors and AP classes before they graduate high school, and increases their chances of getting into top-tier colleges and the colleges of their choice,” Arria said. “We see getting involved in the trajectory of the education of these young people at an earlier age to give them a leg up on meeting the challenges of high school.”

“It is our sincere hope that the families throughout greater Boston will consider the opportunities this new junior high school will afford,” Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley said.

Tuition at the junior high will be $2,600 per student, which officials say represents a significant discount from the actual cost of educating a Cathedral student -- estimated at approximately $14,000. As is the case with the high school, the difference is raised through the school’s advancement department, which brings in roughly $3 million each year.

Tuition at the high school is currently $4,550, but many students receive need-based financial aid.

“Money becomes the last thing we worry about for the kids,” said C. Michael Daley, a trustee of the school and a member of the class of 1954. “If they are interested and qualified, we take them in and work with them.”

The junior high will enroll up to 40 students per grade and will be housed in four classrooms on the fourth floor of the existing school building.

Junior high students will have access to the same recently-refurbished facilities the high school students use, including the modern language lab, science labs, the library and media center, cafeteria, and the recently-constructed gymnasium.

At the same time, seventh and eighth graders will remain largely separate from the high school student body, said Sister Eleanor Daniels, CSJ, who has been named the first principal of the junior high.

Sister Eleanor, currently in a faculty development role at the high school and a former principal of the grammar school, said she expects 36 students from Cathedral Grammar School to matriculate into the junior high. Those students, Sister Eleanor added, are currently in the sixth and seventh grades there.

Daley said the junior high is anticipated to move into the former convent adjacent to the school as necessary funds are raised to pay for renovations. Arria said relocation could happen within the next two years.

The convent will be renovated to not only house the junior high school, but also to include a campus ministry center, administrative offices, bookstore, guidance suite, and advancement offices, Arria added.

The curriculum will include modern language, laboratory science, physical education, technology and advanced math classes. It will be taught by the same teachers who instruct the high school students.

In conjunction with the establishment of the junior high school, Cathedral Grammar School will move to being a K-6 school, Arria said. Currently, it serves students in Grades K through 8.

Other junior high models currently exist at Catholic schools within the archdiocese. Boston College High School in Dorchester and Ursuline Academy in Dedham both have seventh and eight grade programs.

The Cathedral High expansion is the latest in a series of changes in the landscape of Catholic education in that area of the city announced in recent weeks.

In late 2009, North Cambridge Catholic High School announced it was changing its name to Cristo Rey Boston and relocating to Dorchester. Pope John Paul II Academy in Dorchester/Mattapan is consolidating from five campuses to four.

Cathedral High School will host an information evening and open house for interested sixth and seventh grade students and their families at the school on Feb. 24 from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Applications can be secured by calling the school or by visiting the school’s website.