.- The Archdiocese of Boston has broken ground on the Columbia Campus of the new Pope John Paul II Academy as part of a reconfiguration of the Catholic school system in the Boston neighborhoods of Dorchester and Mattapan. Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley, joined by Boston Mayor Thomas M. Meninio, local clergy, students, teachers, and officials from Catholic school organizations, attended the groundbreaking ceremony.
The Boston Globe reports that the archdiocese plans to replace seven existing parish schools with the Pope John Paul II Academy, a single regionalized school operating on five campuses. All campuses will serve grades from pre-kindergarten through grade eight.
Commenting at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Columbia campus, Cardinal O’Malley said, “The Archdiocese is blessed by the contributions many people are making toward our efforts to strengthen and enhance Catholic education.”
“Generations of families have been educated in Dorchester/Mattapan, our Catholic schools' alumni are well represented among leaders in education, government, business and many other professions. We look forward to educating future generations and helping to develop tomorrow’s leaders at Pope John Paul II Catholic Academy,” he added.
According to the archdiocese, the reorganization will provide greater resources for curriculum, staff, technology, and finances and will ensure the “long-term viability” of the schools while maintaining their Catholic identity. The academy will be managed by a regional board and a regional director.
The plan reportedly will cost $68 million and will be paid for largely through private donations.
The Dorchester reorganization is part of the archdiocese’s 2010 initiative to strengthen the struggling Catholic schools in the Boston area. According to the Boston Globe, there are now only 99 Catholic elementary schools in the archdiocese, compared to 250 in 1965. The archdiocese continues to close several parish schools each year.
About 1,500 students are expected to begin attending Pope John Paul II Academy in September.