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Cathedral weighs virtual Catholic high school

Photo courtesy of the Superior School District

Catholic high school education may be returning to Superior, but not in brick-and-mortar form.

Cathedral School in Superior is exploring options to begin offering virtual and online high school classes through an agreement with Regis Catholic Schools, based in Eau Claire.

"We're in the planning stages of this," said Gerald Carr, Cathedral principal. "I haven't asked anyone for commitment yet."

The school has held two informational meetings so far, with the latest on March 9. Carr said between five and 10 students have expressed interest in the program.

A minimum of five students would be needed to move forward, he said.

If the program receives approval, students would utilize equipment at Cathedral for interactive classes, which at this time include history and theology. For those classes, students can interact with their long-distance peers and teachers in real time. About five dozen other classes are offered online.

Peggy Schoenfuss, director of Catholic formation for the Diocese of Superior, said Cathedral has been exploring options to partner with Regis for three years.

"We're excited about this opportunity," Schoenfuss said. "I have been with the diocese for 10 years, and since day one everyone's wanted to see Catholic high school education return to Superior."

Cathedral stopped offering high school instruction in 1969, and the Twin Ports is presently without a Catholic high school.

The Diocese of Duluth is working on its own proposal to open a Catholic high school in Duluth, but what impact that will have on Superior's plans has yet to be seen, Carr said.

Cathedral currently offers pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade instruction and has an enrollment of about 220 students.

The Superior diocese entered into a "blended educational plan" with Regis in 2015, but until now, the only students to take advantage of the virtual education option were in Ashland.

Two students received online instruction during the 2015-16 school year through Our Lady of the Lake in Ashland. After the first year, the program was discontinued.

"I'm determined that won't happen here," Carr said.

If Cathedral chooses to offer high school classes, Carr estimated annual tuition would be about $3,500.

Students who graduate would receive a Regis High School diploma.

"Cathedral will be considered a satellite school," Schoenfuss said.

Students taking virtual classes would remain enrolled in the Superior school district. Schoenfuss said that distinction prevents Cathedral students from receiving vouchers through the Wisconsin Parental Choice Program, in which Regis is a participant.

Janna Stevens, Superior school district administrator, said Wednesday that she had not heard of Cathedral's potential plans to offer high school instruction.

"I give them credit for trying to have good programming for the kids they have," Stevens said.

If Cathedral's plan to offer high school classes comes to fruition, Stevens said she'd like to sit down with Cathedral administrators to discuss the change.

She added that she is uncertain what impact the change would have on Superior's public schools.

"Obviously our hope is that our programming is of enough quality that we won't lose any kids," Stevens said. "But parents have to make the choice they believe is best for their kids."

Cathedral could begin offering high school classes this fall if the program is approved.

Carr said the school will have a better idea of its direction by the end of April. He expects a final decision in May.

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