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Archdiocese weighing interest south of Indy

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The Columbus-Seymour area is being considered as a potential site for a new Catholic high school.

The Archdiocese of Indianapolis, which oversees 137 parishes and 71 schools, is working with 13 parishes south of the city, including St. Bartholomew Catholic Church in Columbus, to decide whether another Catholic high school is needed south of Indianapolis.

The archdiocese is studying the feasibility of building one in south-central Indiana and has identified four potential locations. Besides the Columbus-Seymour area, it is also looking at the Center Grove area, near Greenwood; Whiteland, along Whiteland Road between State Road 37 and Interstate 65; and the Bloomington area.

The study is in its first phase, and the archdiocese is focused on gathering demographic information and exploring the possibility of a high school and the potential location or locations for it, said Greg Otolski, the archdiocese’s director of communications.

Information sessions and focus group meetings, including one at St. Bartholomew at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, are the latest steps in a process that began last summer when Bishop Christopher Coyne, vicar general of the archdiocese, approved forming a committee to lead the feasibility study.

Helen Heckman, principal at St. Bartholomew Catholic School and a committee member, said she senses a high level of interest locally.

“Some families are very excited because they would like to have their children continue with a Catholic education,” she said.

St. Bartholomew School offers coursework through eighth grade, at which point most students will go to Columbus North High School or Columbus East High School, Heckman said. It simply isn’t feasible for families to send their children to a Catholic high school, she said, as the closest three are in Indianapolis, Madison and Clarksville.

Having a Catholic high school closer — even in the Greenwood, Bloomington or the Whiteland area — would give local families a more realistic opportunity to have their children continue their Catholic education, she said.

“We’re interested in trying to provide a Catholic high school education to anyone who wants one,” Otolski said.

But before the archdiocese undertakes the costly expense of building a high school, he said, it needs to gauge the level of interest that families have. It needs to know how many families want to send their children to a Catholic high school, how much they’re willing to pay and specifically where they live, among other things, he said.

The focus group meetings will help the archdiocese finalize questions on a survey, Heckman said, which then will be sent out to households with families that would be affected.

Information garnered from meetings and surveys will help the archdiocese whether there is a need for a school, how big the school would need to be and what kind of amenities it would offer. Then the archbishop would have the final say on the decision, he said.

If the archdiocese decides there is enough interest to continue the process, Otolski said the next step would be looking at funding options.

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