KAPAA — St. Catherine School will be expanding.
The school, which will celebrate its 70th birthday in October, recently got approval from Bishop Larry Silva to start work on a high school.
Up until now, St. Catherine offered classes from preschool to eighth-grade.
“Over the years, we’ve had many parents ask about adding a high school program to St. Catherine School, but it was never feasible,” said Celina Haigh, principal of St. Catherine School. “Then a couple of years ago, a group of parents created a committee to explore options for a Catholic high school on the island.”
The parents’ preference was a brick-and-mortar school, but the cost and logistics of constructing a new building made that an unlikely option, Haigh said.
So, after researching other models, school officials decided to partner with the Archdiocese of Miami Virtual Catholic School, which offers an online curriculum that emphasizes Catholic principles, and is taught by innovative, state-certified teachers, according to the ADOM-VCS website.
“Online classes will be taught by teachers of the Archdiocese of Miami, and include both the standard and honors levels for English, math, science and history,” Haigh said.
ADOM-VCS also offers 40 electives to choose from, several foreign languages and 14 Advanced Placement classes, she said.
The program offers a full-time counselor, so even with the time difference, someone will be available to help students with course and college planning.
In addition to being taught online by teachers, high school students will be taught art, music, P.E. and science lab by St. Catherine teachers, Haigh said.
ADOM-VCS will tailor graduation requirements to meet the Hawaii Department of Education requirements.
The credits earned from the online school are transferable, and students will graduate with a fully accredited diploma, Haigh said.
After researching ADOM-VCS in January with Maria Ballesteros, director of online learning for St. Catherine High School, Haigh submitted a proposal for the program.
Rev. Anthony Rapozo, priest of St. Catherine Parish, submitted the proposal to the Diocese of Honolulu and Hawaii Catholic Schools.
The proposal was approved less than 24 hours later, Haigh said.
“Fr. Anthony, Maria (Ballesteros) and I were thrilled with Bishop Silva’s response,” she said. “This will be the realization of a dream many have had for many years.”
Because the school is implementing an online curriculum, it is not incurring any capital costs. But Haigh plans on hiring an additional staff member next year for the high school.
The high school is slated to open July 25.
“Kauai is the only major island without a Catholic high school,” Haigh said. “We believe that continuing the St. Catherine educational tradition to high school will benefit all of our students.”