Catholic school adding more grade levels

Royalmont Academy in Mason will be third Catholic high school in Butler and Warren counties.

Royalmont Academy in Mason — teaching grades pre-K through eighth — is expanding to add grades 9-12 for the 2014-15 school year, said Tony Ferraro, executive director of the school.

This will be the first new addition of a Catholic high school in Butler and Warren counties in 47 years, since Badin High School opened in Hamilton. Bishop Fenwick High School in Franklin opened in 1952.

Ferraro said Royalmont, which opened 17 years ago, partnered with the Archdiocese of Cincinnati during a six- to eight-month period of researching demographics, facilities and financials to prepare for adding this program.

“We initiated a study on whether it would be viable or negatively impact other Catholic high schools in the archdiocese,” said Dan Andriacco, spokesman for the archdiocese. “We don’t want to be taking away from the fine schools already existing.”

Ferraro said it’s always been a part of the Royalmont vision to offer grades K-12. The high school will be housed in the existing 110,000-square-foot facility at 200 Northcrest Dr. The high school will be a blended learning program — with live lessons from teachers mixed with online aspects.

“This is a response to the wants and needs of our current families; Mason is a growing area,” Ferraro said.

Royalmont is a member of the archdiocese and currently has about 200 students in grades pre-K through eighth from 23 church parishes.

Jim Rigg, superintendent of schools for the archdiocese, said the addition of a high school program at Royalmont will be positive for the overall footprint of Catholic education in southwest Ohio.

“Initially there was skepticism on if Greater Cincinnati would support another Catholic high school,” Rigg said. “Royalmont exists in an area of high growth. They’ve given modest projections about the size (of the program) with about 60 kids.”

Rigg said the archdiocese consulted with its existing network of 23 Catholic high schools and none objected to a new program. The Royalmont program will only be the fourth K-12 Catholic school within the archdiocese.

“We support the mission of Catholic education in the area so we feel good about the idea of a new Catholic high school coming on the scene,” said Dirk Allen, director of admissions at Badin. “Royalmont has a good reputation so it will enhance the positive reputation of Catholic education in southwest Ohio.”

Badin and Bishop Fenwick each serve approximately 550 students from 25 ZIP codes.

Betty Turvy, director of admissions at Bishop Fenwick, also described the Royalmont expansion as “wonderful.” Turvy said Fenwick does get a handful of Royalmont students each year.

“The more Catholic high schools have a presence in the area, it causes people to consider it,” Turvy said. “(Catholic schools) are not going away; we’re just getting stronger and continue to endeavor and grow in a difficult economy.”

Since 2000, the Archdiocese of Cincinnati — now the country’s sixth largest network of Catholic schools with 42,800 students — has been recording annual decreases in enrollment, with the steepest drops in elementary schools. But Andriacco said enrollment levels have been stable the past two years.

“Other enrollments are falling more than ours,” Andriacco said.