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Demand For Catholic Education In Raleigh Threatens To Shut Some Out

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RALEIGH — When the Raleigh diocese opened Cardinal Gibbons High School two years ago, administrators and parents thought the new school would be big enough to last for years. But when it opens this fall, it will be 150 students over capacity. If the diocese cannot build a new high school soon, it may be forced to turn students away.

Cardinal Gibbons High School bustles even during summer break. Summer sports camps raise $50,000 for the school and the Raleigh diocese, but there are not enough revenue sources to cover a boom in Catholic school enrollment. For high school students, it has reached critical mass, and getting into Cardinal Gibbons two years from now will be anything but a slam dunk.

"We'll be faced with the situation where 30 percent to 35 percent of children graduating from 8th grade in Catholic schools won't be able to get in to Cardinal Gibbons," said diocese school superintendent Mike Fedewa.

Growth is a statewide issue. Individual parishes finance and build schools for kindergarten through 8th grade, and the diocese builds high schools. They cannot ask the state for bonds. They ask parishoners, who have given $30 million for all the church's ministries, including schools.

"It's not going to be possible to build another $19 million facility," said Fedawa.

The church has two years to build a new high school to house up to 800 students


keep a lid on tuition costs.

"The data doesn't lie, and we see it and recognize that the clock is ticking," said Fedawa.

Catholic parents, who helped finance three new elementary schools and the high school worry about that ticking clock as well.

"We have so many families in this area (who) want Catholic education, (who) want this type of education for their children, and I would be very upset if I thought my children could not get in (to Gibbons)," said parent Jean Swain.

"I am worried that there are a number of Catholic elementary schools built in the last few years and only one high school," said another parent.

The diocese is looking at land around the Durham and Chatham County areas, and studying less expensive building plans. Church leaders hope to have something in place by fall 2003. If not, they will have to turn high school students away.

The church believes schools should be diverse in culture, race, and faith so not every student is a Catholic, which makes the issue of turning students away even more problematic.


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