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Temporary Locations Announced for Tornado-Damaged Cathedral High School and St. Michael's Academy Middle School

July 25, 2011
In The News

SPRINGFIELD – Bishop Timothy A. McDonnell announced Monday that Cathedral High School will relocate to the vacant Memorial Elementary School in Wilbraham this fall, staying there until its tornado-damaged campus can be rebuilt on Surrey Road, possibly taking up to two years.

McDonnell also announced that St. Michael’s Academy Middle School, also seriously damaged by the June 1 tornado, will relocate to the Holy Cross Campus on Eddywood Street, a school owned by the diocese off Plumtree Road, just a few blocks from Cathedral.

“They are safe harbors, if you will, while we undertake everything necessary to bring us back home, here to Surrey Road in East Forest Park,” McDonnell said. “Cathedral will be back. Cathedral will be here. Cathedral will continue.”

The St. Michael’s Elementary School was undamaged.

Cathedral’s entire academic program can fit at Memorial School, with plans to use some modular units for non-academic programs, McDonnell said. St. Michael’s Middle School’s move will lead to some slightly increasing class sizes, he said.

Cathedral has existed in Springfield for more than 125 years, including its Surrey Road location built in 1959. Its anticipated enrollment is 350 students, but could rise with Monday’s announcement, according to diocesan spokesman Mark Dupont.

The enrollment was 420 students last school year.

The announced plans for the school were made outside Cathedral, and was followed by a tour inside the building that revealed serious damage to sections of the roof, walls, floors, windows, the science wing, gymnasium, and elsewhere. The cost of repairs is not known yet. A structural analysis is being completed to fully evaluate renovations needed, and a capital campaign is planned to help raise funds for the work, he said.

Details regarding the rental agreement with the Hampden-Wilbraham Regional School District were not immediately available.

Scott R. Chapman, chairman of the Hampden Wilbraham Regional School Committee, said that because the proposed school reuse involves the lease of a public building by a private organization, the School Committee is required to legally advertise for a request for proposals for the buildings.

“We have advertised for bids for use of Memorial School and will open the bids on Aug. 5,” Chapman said.

“We are looking forward to reviewing the bids, and hope to be able to support Cathedral, while it rebuilds, as a good neighbor.”

No other bids have been submitted, and no party has expressed an interest in the building.

Chapman, who is a graduate of Cathedral High School, said that viewing the devastation that Cathedral High School suffered was “very emotional.”

The diocese has considered other temporary locations for Cathedral including two floors of a building at Springfield Technical Community College. The community college site, however, faced challenges of not being ready in time for the start of school in September, McDonnell said.
Cathedral's Future Outlined A press conference on the future for Cathedral High School, and a tour of the damaged building was held Monday Watch video

U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal, D-Springfield, and Mayor Domenic J. Sarno joined in praising the short-term and long-term diocesan plans for Cathedral.

“It is a huge psychological boost for all of us,” Neal said.

Sarno said he is pleased that the “storied tradition” of Cathedral will continue in Springfield.

Mario Johnson of Enfield, whose son Michael is entering his senior year at Cathedral, said parents have been on “pins and needles” the past two months, and are relieved that a temporary location is selected. In addition, Johnson said he and other parents favored the Wilbraham site over the community college site, believing it offered a better environment.

“It has been terrible on the parents,” Johnson said, of the wait for the decision.

Michael said he is happy with the decision, saying the chosen site ensures that he and his friends can reunite.

Paul E. Caron, who is an alumni of Cathedral, a parent of two Cathedral students, and a member of the board of trustees, said the feeling is “bittersweet.”

There is a “sense of relief” that the bishop is committed to rebuilding Cathedral, Caron said. However, there is also disappointment that it might take as long as two years to rebuild the school, meaning that one of his children, entering his junior year, might not graduate at the Cathedral site, he said.

Cathedral High School to be rebuilt in its original location Parents react to the news that Cathedral High School will stay at its current Surrey Road location in Springfield. Watch video

It is not the first time that the former Wilbraham elementary school has been used to house students displaced by bad weather. In February, students and staff from Mapleshade Elementary School in East Longmeadow were moved to Wilbraham after their school was closed Feb. 4 due to cracks in the cafeteria roof caused by heavy snow.

Cathedral is approximately seven miles from Memorial School. In cooperation with Springfield officials, bus transportation will be extended to Wilbraham.

The diocese is continuing discussions with the Federal Emergency Management Administration regarding financial assistance in the temporary arrangements, Dupont said.