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Archdiocese considers new high school

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If parents living in Greenwood or the Center Grove area want to send their children to a Catholic high school, they have to drive to the southside.

A group of local parents is pushing to change that. A study is underway on building a new Catholic high school south of Indianapolis.

Last year, parents from SS. Francis and Clare Catholic School in the Center Grove area asked the Archdiocese of Indianapolis to consider adding a Catholic high school south of the city. Nine of the 14 families whose eighth-graders graduated in May decided to start making the drive this fall so their children could attend Roncalli High School, which is located near Interstates 465 and 65.

SS. Francis and Clare School has grown each year and now has about 560 students, and officials want all of their students to have the option of attending a Catholic high school that’s close to them, school president Rob Richardson said.

“(Roncalli) is a great school but not necessarily around the corner,” Richardson said.

Since then, other parishes in central and southern Indiana joined in the effort. Now, the archdiocese is working with 13 parishes south of the city, including three in Johnson County, to decide whether another Catholic high school is needed south of Indianapolis.

Catholic high schools are funded primarily by the tuition families pay and by support from the parishes. So before the archdiocese decides whether to add a high school and where, it needs to know how many families want to send their children to a Catholic high school, how much they’re willing to pay and specifically where they live, according to Greg Otolski, director of communications for the archdiocese.

Four sites are being considered — Mullinix and Olive Branch roads, east of State Road 37 in the Center Grove area and near SS. Francis and Clare; somewhere along Whiteland Road between State Road 37 and Interstate 65; the Bloomington-Bedford area; and the Columbus-Seymour area.

The need for another Catholic high school extends outside Johnson County. There is no Catholic high school between Roncalli and Our Lady of Providence Junior-Senior High School in Clarksville, and that means families in Seymour, Columbus and Brown County don’t have a Catholic high school nearby, Otolski said.

In August, the archdiocese will host focus group meetings so that members of the 13 parishes, including Our Lady of the Greenwood in Greenwood, SS. Francis and Clare and St. Rose of Lima in Franklin, can discuss their interest in adding a second southside Catholic high school.

“What this process really shows is that it’s really being driven from the ground up by the people in the parishes who are interested in sending their kids to a Catholic high school,” Otolski said.

The archdiocese won’t be able to make a decision about a new high school until officials know where interested families live. So part of the decision will be based on the number of people who show up to the forums in and outside Johnson County, Otolski said.

He said the archbishop will make the final decision about whether to add a high school.

“There’s just no way to do anything without seeing how widespread the interest is,” Otolski said. “We’re just going to be taking it one step at a time, really.”

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