COLUMBIA — Columbia's first Catholic high school is on schedule for a fall opening.
Father Tolton Regional Catholic High School, under construction at U.S. 63 and Gans Road, will open to ninth- and 10th-grade students in early September. Grade 11 will be added in 2012, and grade 12 will be added the following year.
Parents are invited to attend an information session about Tolton High. Discussion will cover tuition, dress code, curriculum, athletics and school activities.
When: 7 p.m. Feb. 1
Where: Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, Flannegan Hall, 903 Bernadette Drive
Principal Kristie Wolfe has been recruiting students from area middle schools since last year. She said she wants to enroll students from Columbia, as well as Fulton, Moberly, Mexico, Mo., and other neighboring cities. Her target is 50 students in each grade level.
Wolfe expects to meet this goal with the freshman class, she said, but drawing sophomores from other high schools will be challenging.
"The current eighth-graders are in Catholic grade schools and are easy for me to reach out to," Wolfe said. "The ninth-graders — next year's sophomores — are spread out in public schools. They are harder to reach."
The first faculty member was hired last week, and Wolfe said she has a number of applications from qualified teachers.
“We have begun the interview process,” she said. “I hope by the end of February we have several named.”
The curriculum for Tolton High will include classic course sequences such as math, science, social studies and literature.
"A strong core curriculum ... will be delivered to all students, with options at the academic, honors and AP levels," Wolfe said in a letter to interested parents.
Because today's students learn primarily through technology, Wolfe said, that also will be an emphasis. Textbooks for many of the courses will be available online.
In addition, the curriculum will include a 1:1 laptop program, with computers given to each student for an annual technology fee. Wolfe said students will be able to lease the laptops while they are enrolled and keep them after high school.
“We’re opening a school in the 21st century; we should act like we’re opening a school in the 21st century,” Wolfe said.
Buying textbooks for every student in every grade and class does not seem wise, Wolfe said. She said she could spend the same amount, or even less, on laptops and e-texts.
“Students today customize everything," she said. "That’s the way they interact with their world.”
The recent wave of winter weather set back the school's construction schedule by two weeks, but that should not postpone the school's opening.
“They’re projecting being 100 percent done on October 31, but we still expect to open school on time in the fall,” Wolfe said.
The locker room and gymnasium area are nearly complete, and flooring has been poured in the classroom and arts area. Pictures of the progress can be found on the school’s Facebook page.
Construction has been funded by private donations, with $10.7 million raised so far, which leaves the school about $3 million short of its target. Wolfe said an anonymous donor pledged to donate $1 million when the school reaches the $12 million mark.
"So many volunteers have participated and contributed to making this happen," said Kathleen Trauth, chair of the executive committee for the school.
Tolton will have a competitive athletic program and will add sports based on interest. The school already plans to offer football, softball, volleyball, basketball, soccer, cross-country and track and field.
Wolfe said the school will be tuition-based and cost $5,000-$6,000 a year.
"I do hope we're at a stable number that's not going to change a lot in the first couple years, even if our student population changes," Wolfe said.
Students will wear uniforms matching Tolton's colors — light blue and silver.
The mascot, a Trailblazer, was inspired by the school’s namesake, Father Augustine Tolton, the first African-American Catholic priest in the United States.
"We wanted to have a name that represented the Catholic community," Trauth said.
Tolton was born into slavery in Brush Creek in 1854. He began a career in the Catholic church after the Civil War. Although he ran into obstacles along the way, he was ordained and celebrated his first high Mass in 1886, according to Catholic Times, a newspaper based in Springfield.
Tolton died of heat exhaustion in 1897 while returning from a mission trip. His name has recently been introduced for canonization.