Knoxville News-Sentinel, The (TN)

February 20, 1997


After more than 64 years on Magnolia Avenue near downtown, Knoxville Catholic High School will be moving to a new $10-million facility in West Knox County in the fall of 2000.

A fund-raising drive will begin in earnest in May, and construction at Cedar Bluff and Fox Lonas roads should begin in 1999, said Knoxville Bishop Anthony O'Connell, who will announce plans at a press conference this morning.

The move will provide a larger school that's closer to the center of the area's growing Catholic population. It will be built on the same 42.9-acre tract as All Saints Catholic Church.

``We have a pool of probably 600 to 800 Catholic students of high school age right now,'' O'Connell said. ``My desire is to see every one of those in the Catholic high school.''

The high school has a record 381 students this year and could fit only about 410 in the present building, Principal Patrick Garrity said.

``I am convinced that with the population that we have in the Greater Knoxville area and with a concentration of that Catholic population in West Knoxville that we could open there in the fall of 2000 with pretty close to the maximum capacity, which would be about 600,'' O'Connell said.

As many as 1,000 students eventually could attend. Core facilities -- cafeteria, library, offices and laboratories, for instance -- will be built to accommodate 1,000.

``It's an exciting time to be a part of Catholic High and part of a 65-year history,'' Garrity said. ``It's the biggest thing to hit Knoxville Catholic High School since 1932, when they opened.''

This year's freshmen will be the last to graduate from the existing school, which already has a new soccer field at the West Knox site. Garrity announced the move of the whole school in an assembly Wednesday.

``We'll inaugurate the facilities at Cedar Bluff and Fox Lonas with a soccer game March 10 (against West), and the kids are excited about being a part of that,'' Garrity said.

The new school will be built with $1 million from the Diocese of Knoxville, $2 million from All Saints parish and $6 million to $7 million from the fund-raising drive, O'Connell said.

While the high school move has been discussed for months, the bishop wanted pledges for about half the $6 million to $7 million before giving the go-ahead.

``I have reached a degree of comfortableness that I'm confident that we can do it,'' O'Connell said this week.

The project will be coordinated by All Saints pastor Father Chris Michelson. He said his parish will spend $2 million on a 16-classroom building that the school will use.

He said the connection of the high school with a parish is unique, and possibly the only such partnership in Tennessee. Michelson will help to coordinate various committees, work with architect Thomas Haeuptle of Johnson Architecture and keep the bishop informed of progress.

``I'm pretty overwhelmed, actually,'' Michelson said, pointing out construction of his church is to be completed in the spring of 1999. ``It's the largest undertaking in the history of the diocese, by far.''

The diocese includes all of East Tennessee, from Chattanooga to the Tri-Cities. Since 1989-90, enrollment at its nine schools grew 37.3 percent, from 2,492 to 3,421.

About 15 percent of Knoxville Catholic High School's students are non-Catholic. Tuition next school year will be $3,360 for Catholics and $4,360 for non-Catholics, and tuition at the new school won't be disproportionately higher, diocesan Superintendent of Schools Aurelia Montgomery said.

Exactly what will happen with the existing high school hasn't been decided.

It's in ``extremely good condition,'' O'Connell said. ``We're going to start exploring shortly what possibilities there may be for that. That may be church use or other use.'' A name for the new school hasn't been chosen.

The opening of the school in the fall of 2000 has religious significance because it's a year of Jubilee, O'Connell said.

``I think there's a special magic to that, to being able to start in the year 2000, and of course there's tremendous religious significance to doing that in the year that, in the Old Testament, would be set aside for the renewal of the earth and the renewal of all God's creation.

``My aim is to try to find a way to -- I would even use the word `entice' -- the greatest number of our Catholic high school-age youngsters to take advantage of Catholic high school education and formation.''

Copyright (c) 1997 The Knoxville News-Sentinel