High school opportunities for Dover Catholic students in the works

By Mike Finney
Posted 4/1/24

DOVER — When children graduate from eighth grade at Holy Cross School, they and their parents have a tough decision to make regarding the future.

The reason for that is there is currently …

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High school opportunities for Dover Catholic students in the works


DOVER — When children graduate from eighth grade at Holy Cross School, they and their parents have a tough decision to make regarding the future.

The reason for that is there is currently no Catholic high school located within Dover.

However, steps are being taken by people like Jennifer Pinkerton and seven other members of a board of local stakeholders who are working together to bring a Catholic-based educational opportunity back to the city.

They are in the process of taking the infant steps with the goal of bringing a new Holy Cross High School back to Dover in fall 2025.

“A group of us started talking about it, just a few families, in the fall of 2021, so it’s been a relatively a new endeavor,” Ms. Pinkerton said. “But by the following spring, we were sending out a survey to the existing Holy Cross Elementary parents to just see what kind of interest there was in having a local high school.

“At that point we found out that 98% of the respondents said they would send their child to a Catholic high school if it was available in the area.”

That served as an impetus to continue moving forward.

“So, that really spurred us to continue on further and start working through what was needed to get this off the ground,” she said. “It’s been moving very quickly, so it’s been a great effort.”

For Ms. Pinkerton, being able to provide a Catholic-based education is personal, considering she has three children who are active in Holy Cross School right now, with one in the third grade, one in fourth, and another who will soon be joining the Pre-K program.

On March 20, the board announced that Tom Fertal accepted the position to become the inaugural president of Holy Cross High School. He is set to officially start his job on June 1.

Meanwhile, the job announcement for the position of the school’s principal was posted last Tuesday.

The board anticipates that the school will be following a little bit different model, one that will be a president-principal one, along with a board. It will also not be run by a parish or the diocese, as it had been in its prior iteration.

“I think once we have those two positions in place starting this summer then we’re going to be really laying out what the staffing is going to look like, because as it starts out as a smaller school, initially some teachers, as well as some of the administrators, might be wearing multiple hats,” said Ms. Pinkerton.

“So, you may have someone who can teach English, but also serve as some other type of a language teacher, as well. Or someone who does math may also be great at coaching different things or working in athletics. We’re just going to look at the talent of some of the teachers that apply and strategize what will be the best way to staff the school.”

The wheels are in motion but there are a lot of unknowns that remain, such as the location of the school and whether or not it will be located on Holy Cross Church property, where the old Holy Cross High School once was before it closed at the end of the 1986-’87 school year.

“We hired an outside consultant, Meitler (a Wisconsin-based consultant with experience in developing Catholic schools), to help us analyze the interest and go through that and right now our conservative estimate is that the opening year we’re planning on having a freshman and sophomore class,” Ms. Pinkerton said. “We anticipate having at least 29 freshmen and, hopefully, 15 sophomores.”

The plan is to eventually make it a full four-year school.

Ms. Pinkerton admitted that her interest in bringing a Catholic high school was quite personal considering her children, but she found that many others in the Dover area are facing the same dilemma.

“Part of my interest in this was trying to figure out what was I going to do once (my children) got to that (high school) stage,” said Ms. Pinkerton. “The community seems very excited. We get stopped in the parking lot and asked for updates.

“We send out updates to the community of parents that have shown interest. They’re all very excited about this possibility of being able to continue their education here in Dover with a Catholic education.”

For Ms. Pinkerton and others on the board, the chance to offer their children a Catholic education that will continue until high school graduation is priceless.

After all, the opening of the Catholic high school will fill a void left by the 2020 closure of St. Thomas More Academy, which closed in June 2020, shortly after the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

“One of the things we’re most excited about is the continuation of that Catholic education,” she said. “It’s the students getting that spiritual formation, (plus) academic rigor is always very good in Catholic schools and one of the other things that we’ve always heard from parents, and this is part of our study, was the discipline and the safety of the school.

“The group of us who started pulling this together — we aren’t educators or teachers in our backgrounds — so there’s been a lot of learning on our end to pull this together, but we’ve got a board of approximately eight of us that formed this group and pooled all our resources to start figuring out what the path forward would be.”

That path is currently still taking shape with hopes for a 2025 opening for Holy Cross High School, filling a void in Catholic-based education in Dover.

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