Exploratory board moving ahead with plans for a new Catholic high school in Fort Smith

by Talk Business & Politics staff ([email protected]) 287 views 

Fort Smith may soon be home to yet another new high school. The Fort Smith Trinity Catholic High Exploratory Board announced Friday (Dec. 11) it has been approved to move forward on forming a college prep school that would be open to students in much of the Fort Smith metro.

According to a statement from the exploratory board, Bishop Anthony Taylor gave his blessing for the board to begin fund raising and to further negotiations on a location for the proposed Catholic high school.

Dan Smith, a nuclear medicine technologist at Mercy-Fort Smith and president of the exploratory board, told Talk Business & Politics that the school would likely begin one class at a time with around 60 students. By the third year, the school would have all three grades.

However, Smith declined to provide a cost estimate for launching the new school, and also avoided providing a timeline.

“There are just too many variables, too many directions it could go to give you a number,” Smith said, adding that the decision of whether to locate on the same property with Trinity Junior High or find another location in Fort Smith would significantly change the cost.

Driving the push for a Catholic high school, Smith said, is a perception of demand, with some of that perception fueled by what he said is a growing number of Fort Smith families sending their sons to Subiaco Academy. 

The board recently attempted to quantify the demand with a survey sent to parishes in the Fort Smith metro. Smith said the point of the survey was to see how many families would pay tuition of between $7,000 and $9,000 a year for a child to attend a Catholic High School.

“We had overwhelming support for that. … We had 600 surveys returned, and the support was there,” he said.

In a statement sent to the media, Smith noted: “Our community wants and needs a college preparatory high school that will cultivate and develop a faith based environment that promotes academic excellence and servant leadership for all who wish to attend.”

Smith said the school would be faith-based, but students do not have to be Catholic to attend. He said about one-third of Trinity Junior High students are not Catholic. Students would have to attend mass once a week, but are not required to take communion or participate.

With the approval from Bishop Taylor, the Trinity Catholic High Board is pushing forward with fundraising drive. A bank account has been set up and is active for incoming tax-deductible donations that can be made to Trinity Catholic High and mailed to Trinity Catholic High, PO Box 10612, Fort Smith, Arkansas 72917.

Fort Smith has not had a Catholic high school since St. Anne’s Academy, which opened in 1853, closed in 1973.

Fort Smith will in 2016 be home to a Future School of Fort Smith, an open enrollment charter high school recently approved by the Arkansas Board of Education. Future School officials plan to begin in 2016 with 150 students in 10th grade, and would add 150 students and a grade each year until by year three the school would be home to grades 10-12 and 450 students. Funding for the school comes from the Arkansas Department of Education.