Boston archdiocese to open first new school in 50 years

Catholic school classroom Stephen Kiers/Shutterstock

The Archdiocese of Boston is planning on opening its first new Catholic school in more than 50 years, featuring a “blended learning” experience of online and in-person instruction. 

Lumen Verum Academy will open this fall with 25 students in grades six through eight, and will eventually expand to add grades nine through 12. The goal is to enroll about 350 to 400 students, WGBH reported.

The school’s name is the Latin term for “true light.”

Unlike a traditional Catholic school, Lumen Verum Academy will feature online instruction for four days a week, with one in-person day on Wednesdays. Another in-person session, on Saturdays, will be optional. The school will have neither a building nor a central classroom. 

Speaking to the outlet WGBH, Thomas Carroll, the superintendent for schools for the Boston archdiocese, said, “There’s literally no other blended learning Catholic school in the country.” When devising the school, he added, “we wanted to create something that didn’t exist.” 

“It’s different than all the other schools,” said Carroll. “If people want a more conventional bricks and mortar school we got a hundred of those.” 

For the coming school year, the school will have two co-principals, five teachers, and two campus ministers. Students will be taught from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., mirroring a normal workday. Students have a one-hour period per day for homework, which, combined with the workday-type schedule, is designed to lend more time in the evenings for sleep.

Carroll said the instruction will feature “Socratic style and small group discussion.” 

One of the school’s co-principals, Craig Dyke, recently told the National Catholic Register that the school aims to meet parents’ requests for education in line with the Church’s magisterium, and with a community of learning and faith. The curriculum is modeled after the classical liberal arts. The doctrinal teachings of the Church will be discussed in classes throughout the curriculum.

The virtual instruction is meant to be “a lot more interactive” for students, he told the Register. The school is planning on teaching with lectures, digital lessons, and virtual guest speakers. 

However, for a “prudent use of technology,” the school's website says it will limit screen time for students to three hours per day during the virtual session days. Half of each time block for classes will include preparation time for the student away from a screen.

The in-person days on Wednesdays - and, optionally, on Saturdays - are meant to foster friendships and a community of learning. Mass or Eucharistic adoration will be included in the schedule. Those days will also feature monthly excursions to historic or educational sites, or to the outdoors, imitating St. John Paul II’s ministry with young adults. 

More than 4,000 students enrolled at archdiocesan Catholic schools last summer after it was announced that Massachusetts’ public schools would not immediately be returning to in-person instruction and would be delaying the start of the school year. The Archdiocese of Boston opened its schools in-person as normal, and experienced “very few” cases of the coronavirus. 

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