Bowing to an order from the Archdiocese of New Orleans that local Catholic schools must adopt uniform grade structures, Christian Brothers School in City Park plans to merge with St. Anthony of Padua School in order to create a new Catholic school, officials at both schools said Monday.
The new school, set to open in the 2016-17 school year as St. Anthony of Padua: A Christian Brothers School, will bring Christian Brothers School into compliance with Archbishop Gregory Aymond’s edict that all area Catholic schools adopt the new grade structure, meaning that elementary schools must offer classes from prekindergarten through seventh grade, and high schools must offer eighth through 12th grades. K-12 schools also are allowed.
Christian Brothers’ current campus offers only fifth through seventh grades for boys. That won’t change under the plan announced Monday. Starting in 2016, though, the merged school also will offer coed classes for pre-kindergarten through fourth grade, plus fifth- through seventh-grade courses for girls, all at the St. Anthony campus at 4600 Canal St., more than a mile away from the City Park site.
Details of the merger, such as leadership structure and tuition, are still being worked out, administrators said. Additional work includes designing a new curriculum, determining an admissions process and hiring additional faculty.
Ruth Angelette, St. Anthony’s longtime principal, is expected to stay on in the new venture in a still-to-be-decided capacity, Catholic Schools Superintendent Jan Lancaster said Monday.
Lancaster said she and Christian Brothers Principal Joey Scaffidi have “a long history of working together.”
“This is exciting,” Lancaster said of the new school. “It’s something that they’re creating, and it’s been well received by many stakeholders in the Archdiocese of New Orleans.”
For his part, Scaffidi said that parents considering enrolling a child in the new school will have “adequate time to make an informed decision before the doors open.”
“Designing an entirely new curriculum, that’s challenging in and of itself,” he said. “There are many questions that have to be addressed. We don’t have those answers for you just yet, but we will in 2015.”
Aymond’s edict last year that all local Catholic schools must adopt the uniform grade structure has led to headaches at campuses throughout the city as principals and administrators in many cases worked to eliminate one grade or add another.
Aymond denied requests by various schools, including Christian Brothers, for exemptions from the order.
That required administrators at the landlocked Christian Brothers School, which has about 350 boys, to get creative with the prospect of adding kindergarten through fourth grade, because there is no space for expansion at the City Park site.
St. Anthony has just over 200 students in prekindergarten through seventh grade.
Four long-established Catholic schools that are not part of the archdiocesan school system — Christian Brothers, Brother Martin, Holy Cross and St. Augustine — have said they plan to comply with the archbishop’s directive.
The move is required of all Catholic schools in the archdiocese, whether they are direct-run, parish schools or operated by a religious order. About 38,000 young people are enrolled in archdiocesan schools, officials have said.
A three-year, post-Katrina study done for the archdiocese by Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., suggested that the new uniform grade structure would allow students to be more unified and to transition together, as opposed to situations now where some students leave or enroll at schools at different ages.
The archdiocese has said the plan also would help schools, many of whose student populations dwindled after the 2005 storm, remain financially viable in the long term.
Follow Richard Thompson on Twitter, @rthompsonMSY.