New Catholic girls' high school in Wixom delayed

Saint Catherine of Siena Academy, a new Catholic girls' high school scheduled to open in Wixom, has delayed its opening to fall 2010 due to the unfavorable bond conditions, according to the Spinal Column.
The school was formerly scheduled to open in fall 2009.
This school is going to be at the northeast corner of Grand River and Napier Roads. It will be the “sister school” to the all boys' Catholic Central High School, which is in a beautiful new building down the street in Novi.  
How can a new Catholic school be successful when the Detroit area is closing many Catholic schools due to declining enrollment? Also, will this school take away from other girls’ schools, such as Mercy High School and Ladywood High School? Or will it help allow more students to enroll in Catholic schools?
This will be interesting. If this school had opened five years ago, my daughter would have probably signed up since we live in Milford. Instead, she takes a long bus ride every day to Mercy High School, my alma mater.
Mercy is a great school and has many advantages over the new school. First of all, it has a central  Farmington Hills location that makes it wonderfully diverse.
Mercy also has a history of academic and athletic excellence. In addition, Mercy has plans for a major renovation of their 40 year old building that will include new science labs and other amenities to keep up with the newer schools.
I think that Mercy will survive and St. Catherine's will do well, too. Despite the economy, parents are always seeking choices to fit their family’s educational needs. Catholic schools and same sex schools both consistently outperform most other schools. In addition, studies conducted by the Catholic Archdiocese of Detroit show that the northwest suburbs wold support a Catholic girls’ high school. These suburbs have had the most population and income growth in metropolitan Detroit.
Finally, I think the new school will succeed because the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist have success in operating schools. These nuns operate Spiritus Sanctus Academies in Ann Arbor and Plymouth, which were established by Tom Monaghan, former owner and CEO of Domino’s Pizza and Catholic philanthropist. While other convents are losing members, these sisters have gained 75 women since 1997.
Catholic school project delayed by bond market
Leslie Shepard-Owsley of the Spinal Column
December 10, 2008 - Construction of the Saint Catherine of Siena Academy project in Wixom, formerly slated to break ground on Nov. 17, has been postponed due to unfavorable bond market conditions.

Mike Dewan, chairman of the board of the Saint Catherine of Siena Academy Foundation, said the foundation is eager to start construction but there's no market to sell their tax exempt bonds.

"We're waiting for the credit market to thaw," he said. "This hiccup in the economy has put our plans on hold temporarily, but we've got everything ready to go the moment we see a fiscally-responsible opportunity."

Saint Catherine of Siena Academy, expected to serve as a sister school to Detroit Catholic Central in Novi, was approved by Wixom's Planning Commission to rezone a 30.69-acre parcel located at the northeast corner of 12 Mile and Napier Roads — 24.22 acres of that parcel would accommodate a private high school for 700 girls, and 6.47 acres of the parcel will allow for a planned neighborhood commercial center.

The development agreement covers an area comprised of approximately 30.03 acres that includes a 141,862-square-foot building footprint for the Catholic school. It also accommodates three athletic practice fields, an approximate 7,744-square-foot convent, a varsity track and soccer field, concession building, tennis courts, a varsity softball field, and a host of mandated improvements.

Overall costs are estimated at $30 million.

According to Ed Turek, vice chairman of the Saint Catherine of Siena Academy Foundation, officials intended to close on the bonds on Nov. 7, when their investment broker advised them that due to unprecedented conditions in the credit markets, a market to sell their bonds doesn't currently exist.

"We were hoping to sell at 6.5 percent but our investor, Oppenheimer, said we wouldn't get enough return right now," he said. "Let's face it — people are fearful where to put their money right now."

The entity was fastidious in its endeavors to get the school up and running by fall 2009.

It obtained the necessary approvals from the Archdiocese of Detroit and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to operate a Catholic girls high school as a non-profit Catholic institution where the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist had agreed to administer and staff the school.

The initiative was plowing forward by securing temporary office space in the Lyon Tech Park, roughly 2 miles from the building site, and hiring personnel such as Director of Development Janet Filip and Director of Stewardship Sean Lavell, while recruiting lay faculty and administrative staff.

Architectural drawings for both the school building and convent have been finalized, as well as the basic framework for the school's curriculum and faith formation programs.

Dewan and his immediate staff compiled a formal business plan including financial projections and an operating budget to meet the requirements necessary for the sale of bonds through the Michigan Strategic Fund.

"We have a 'letter of confidence' from Oppenheimer stating that by end of the first quarter we'll be one of the first ones in the bond market," Turek said. "We're staying optimistic. This way it gives us more time to market the school and build a full facility prior to opening. Before we would have been building while the school was in session."

The consensus is to postpone construction until the spring of 2009 and subsequently opening the school doors in the fall of 2010.

According to Dewan, the entity still intends to accept a full freshman class and those sophomores who wish to transfer in during the school's first year.


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