High schoolers at the John S. Burke Catholic campus in Goshen soon will be joined by younger students in 2021-22 in what the Archdiocese of New York and Burke are touting as a “re-imagining” of Catholic education in the region.
Starting in 2021-2022, students in grades 6-8 will attend a new “Burke Catholic Academy,” a middle school that is intended to provide a “seamless” transition to grades 9 through 12 in the adjoining high school.
“We are blessed to be chosen by the Archdiocese of New York to launch this innovative pilot program,” Burke president John Douthit and principal Janice Clark say in a joint message on the school’s website.
Douthit added in an interview that the new arrangement would make Burke a “centralized hub” for Catholic education in Orange County
Michael J. Deegan, superintendent of schools for the archdiocese, said in an interview that students at the new school will benefit from innovative academic programs and numerous extracurricular activities. He said the partnership with Burke, one of the area’s “pre-eminent” Catholic high schools, is an expression of archdiocese’s “state of mind” that has kept its school sat the forefront of education.
“We are constantly looking at our schools and asking ourselves how we can do better, how can we provide a better education for our families,” he said.
Three teachers, guidance counselor, separate wing
Burke will hire tree middle school teachers and a guidance counselor. The new school will have its own wing, with restrooms, entrance/exit and conference rooms.
Its students will be able to participate in high school programs such as music, art and drama.
“One of the big things we think is going to be really cool about it is the high school to middle school mentoring program with our great Burke Catholic students,” Douthit told Catholic New York, archdiocesan newspaper. “We’re really excited about beginning that program.”
The school has held several information sessions for interested parents about the academy, and Douthit said that the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive.
Tara DeMaso, who will have two children attending the middle school in the fall, said they are looking forward to being inaugural academy alumni. “To be selected as a pilot Catholic middle school speaks volumes to the quality and confidence in Burke Catholic High School,” she added.
Enrollment at the high school, at the Academy
There is room to grow at Burke. The high school’s enrollment is about 350, but the building has a capacity of about 550 students.
Douthit said Burke anticipates welcoming about 90 students to the Academy in its first year, although that could be higher in succeeding years.
The school will be is open to sixth, seventh and eighth graders from throughout the Hudson Valley, public school students included. Eligible students in Catholic elementary schools are guaranteed a seat.
Impact on St. John Elementary School
Douthit expects the new school to attract students from “over Orange County,” but many will come from St. John Elementary School, a little more than a mile away in Goshen. The approximately 110 middle school students there will have the option of attending either St. John or Burke Catholic next year, but St. John will become an exclusively Pre K-grade 5 program at the beginning of the 2022-23 school year.
Mount Precious Blood School in Walden and Mount Carmel in Middletown, the other elementary schools in the county run by the archdiocese, will keep their sixth, seventh and eighth grades, principally, Deegan said, because their distance from Burke made a Pre K-5 configuration impractical.
Due to the “devastating” financial impact of the pandemic, the archdiocese did not open 20 schools this year. St. Stephen-St Edward’s School in Warwick and Sacred Heart in Monroe were merged into St. John. There is a satellite campus in Warwick, although Deegan said the archdiocese has not decided whether it will be needed next year.
Deegan said the reconfiguration will allow St. John to enhance its already superior academic program. He speculated that the enhancements and the alignment with Burke might even attract more Pre K-grade 5 students.
“This proactive and pragmatic strategy will best position St. John School and Catholic education in Orange County to prosper for years to come,” he said in a letter to middle school parents posted on the school’s website.