In 2018 the Diocese of Raleigh began a series of studies to explore the feasibility of expanding Catholic high school options across Eastern North Carolina.
The four regions that were specifically considered in this research were:
- The Eastern Coastal region (including New Bern/Havelock/Jacksonville/Morehead City);
- The Fayetteville region (including Pinehurst and Southern Pines);
- The Wilmington region;
- The Durham-Chapel Hill region
“We are blessed with an increasing number of Catholic families who desire Catholic education across our diocese,” said Dr. John Pendergrass, Assistant Superintendent of Catholic Schools for the Catholic Diocese of Raleigh. “We’re grateful to our parish and regional communities who worked with the professional researchers to help us create plans for the future. They have helped us balance the expressed desire for more high schools with the need for schools that can attain assured long-term financial stability.”
The process involved the establishment of a School Study Committee in each region to move the process forward. The committee’s role was to assist in evaluating the potential for a new Catholic high school; review research and reports provided by the consultant; and provide insight, leadership and expertise throughout the feasibility study
Community demographic data along with information regarding parish and Catholic school data trends were collected and researched. The goal of the data portion of the study was to provide a foundation for determining the strength of the potential student enrollment in the local area to project the sustainability for the future.
Additionally, a consultant from the Meitler Group conducted meetings and interviews with area individuals and parent groups to gather anecdotal information and build ongoing interest in this initiative. Feasibility study consultants also met with the diocesan Superintendent of Catholic Schools, local Catholic elementary school principals, and other groups of interested parents and parishioners.
For each feasibility study, an online survey was conducted of parents in each region with children 12 years of age and younger to measure the level of interest in a new Catholic high school. The survey was critical in determining the potential enrollment of a proposed high school which, if sufficient, would lead to next steps, including estimating costs, creating a funding model and establishing a timeline for next steps in planning.
In February 2020, updates on all of the regional feasibility studies for Catholic high schools were suspended as the pandemic emerged. At that time three of the four regional studies had been completed. The current status of each regional study is as follows:
The feasibility study for the Eastern Coastal area was delayed due to the 2019 hurricanes that struck the area and with the present public health crisis, the feasibility study for this region remains postponed.
This research project in the Durham Chapel Hill region is moving forward to the next phase Diocese of Raleigh staff are working in conjunction with the diocesan Real Estate Committee to secure land for a potential new high school in this area and work with local government officials re: permitting, etc. In tandem with real estate procurement, additional financial and school site planning are underway to ensure that if/when a potential high school building project in this region gets formally underway, it will have the long-term financial and community support to be sustainable.
The feasibility studies for the Fayetteville and Wilmington areas did not continue beyond the initial research phase to the financial and/or site planning phase. The research conducted by Meitler Group did not identify community support sufficient to warrant moving forward to the next steps of school planning at this time.