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St. Michael’s, Cathedral delay opening to ready contingency locations

Date: 8/16/2011

Aug. 15, 2011

By Debbie Gardner

Assistant Editor

SPRINGFIELD — The students of St. Michael’s Academy (SMA) and Cathedral High School (CHA) will have a few extra days to enjoy their summer vacation this year.

Noting that “this has been nothing close to a typical summer,” for school administrators following the June 1 tornado that damaged the SMA and CHS campuses, Nelly de Carvalho, head administrator of SMA, announced last week that classes would begin at the Eddywood Street elementary and middle school on Sept. 6.

The school day for students in kindergarten through eighth grade, she said, would be from 8:15 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. for the 2011-2012 academic year.

She also announced that the diocese had reached an agreement with nearby Wachogue Congregational Church on Roosevelt Avenue to locate the SMA preschool program in their facility for this academic year. Preschool classes are scheduled to begin on Sept. 7.

Dr. Ann Southworth, president of CHS, said the start of classes would be staggered at the school’s temporary location in Wilbraham, with seniors reporting to Memorial School on Sept. 6, juniors on Sept. 7, sophomores on Sept. 8 and freshmen on Sept. 9. Hours for the 2011-12 academic year would be 7:35 a.m. to 2:25 p.m., with extended day programs concluding at 4:30 p.m.

Southworth added the diocese is working with the Springfield School Department’s bus company to arrange for transportation to the Wilbraham site for Springfield students who are qualified to ride the bus. She also told Reminder Publications that school administrators are working to find “the fastest and easiest way for students to get to school” for those who will be coming from towns such as Southwick, Westfield and Somers, Conn.

de Carvalho said she recognized that pushing back the start of the school year will present a challenge — and possibly a hardship – for parents who will need to find care for their children for an extra week, but she said the teachers and administrative team “need another week to have the building ready ... we want the building to be safe [for students] and ready for them.” Remarkably, de Carvalho said, only a few computers, some science equipment and some textbooks were lost when the tornado hit the SMA section of Cathedral on June 1.

She said SMA is grateful to Holy Cross Parish for its cooperation in vacating a number of rooms in the Eddywood building so the school can accommodate as many students as possible. Nevertheless, she said the diocese capped enrollment at 610 students and there is now a waiting list for admission for this year.

The staff, she said, will total 56, following the “heartbreaking” layoff of a computer teacher and a middle school physical education teacher.

She had similar praise and thanks for the members of Wachogue church, where the diocese will rent preschool space for the next two years.

“The people have been so accommodating,” de Carvalho said, adding that because the church hosted an early childhood program a few years ago, the site needs only minor renovations to make it ready for the SMA preschool. She expects 70 children to take part in the program this year.

Southworth praised the layout of Memorial School, saying “the way it was designed, it is appropriate for an elementary, middle, or high school.” She said CHS staff would be relocating all of the school’s smart boards, computers and other technology to the Wilbraham site, and retrofitting an existing art room to create a second science lab. Several local colleges have also offered to allow students to use lab space this year if necessary, she added.

With enrollment at 380 “and families calling us every day,” Southworth said there might be some instances of teachers sharing classrooms this year, and the school will need to schedule more lunch periods to avoid overcrowding in the cafeteria.

Diocese Director of Public Affairs Mark Dupont said the schedule for Cathedral’s fall sports would be listed on the school’s Web site, He noted that without the generosity of American International College, Chicopee Comprehensive High School, Lusitano Stadium, the Dias family, the parks departments in Springfield and Wilbraham and Big Y Foods, it would not have been possible to put together a fall sports schedule for the school.

Dupont also said the diocese was expecting a formal cost analysis for repairs to CHS shortly. Those figures, he said, would be shared with the dioceses’ insurance company, The Catholic Mutual Group of Omaha, Neb., to determine what compensation the diocese will receive for the tornado damage. Repairs to the Surrey Road campus are still estimated to take up to two years.

Debbie Gardner can be reached by e-mail at

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