Just a week into the site work at what will be the new St. Patrick Academy and you can already see where the Catholic school will sit on its lot of Banfield Road.
Jim Broom, president of the Hope for Tomorrow Foundation, the nonprofit that runs the school, said the plan is to officially open the academy in the fall of 2018.
“We’ve got a chance of possibly opening by the end of April (2018), but we’ll see,” Broom said as he walked the school site as a dump truck and other large construction vehicles worked around him. “Right now we’re a full day ahead of schedule. So much has happened so quickly.”
St. Patrick Academy is replacing the St. Patrick School on Austin Street, which has been operating in downtown Portsmouth for almost 150 years. When the new St. Patrick Academy opens, it will no longer be a parochial school, but instead will be an independent Catholic school, Broom said.
“The idea is to be able to bring best practices and management and operations while continuing to innovate the education model,” Broom said during the tour Thursday.
The Hope for Tomorrow Foundation, which bought land for the new school from the owners of the nearby Community Campus, are hoping to double the school’s enrollment, Broom said.
“We’re at about 100 students and we’re looking to get to 200 as soon as possible,” he said.
Offering a Catholic school education to students from the Seacoast and southern Maine is “an option there seems to be a lot of demand for,” Broom said.
“It’s really the values,” he said. “A lot of people had great connections, maybe they went to a parochial school or a faith-based school and maybe they liked the smaller class sizes. Plus, it has that family feel about it.”
Construction crews have cleared most of the site and Broom said work on the foundation is scheduled to begin in mid-July. “They’re going to start framing soon too,” he said. “The big deadline is before winter comes getting everything roofed and closed off.”
A pile of boulders still sits in the middle of the site, but Broom said they plan to move them so they can be “part of the playground.”
In addition to beginning site work, the Hope for Tomorrow Foundation on Friday announced the hiring of the academy’s first head of school Mark Schwerdt.
Schwerdt has taught, recruited and fund-raised for Catholic schools at the primary, secondary and undergraduate levels and has served as a high school rhetoric teacher, director of admissions at Thomas More College, and executive director of the Southwest Indian Foundation in rural New Mexico, Broom said. Most recently, he served as principal of Saint Francis of Assisi School in Litchfield.
“I am delighted that we have attracted a leader of Mark’s caliber, collaborative abilities and commitment to educating the whole person,” Broom said.