Walsh/STCS to Relocate Next Year

OLEAN, NY – Archbishop Walsh Academy/Southern Tier Catholic School plans to relocate to a familiar place next school year. The Board of Directors is developing an agreement with the Diocese of Buffalo that would include the local Catholic parishes to move school programming from the North 24th Street campus to one of the area’s former Catholic school buildings before next school year.

The Board, Diocese representatives and the local parishes are working together to determine which local parish school building will best meet the school’s needs. A final location should be announced within the coming weeks, said Frank McAndrew, Walsh/STCS Board President.

This agreement with the Diocese to move the school to another building clears up the uncertainty surrounding the months-long building sale process, McAndrew said. Now the longtime private Catholic school will have a home for the future – while still honoring historical roots.

“Parish Catholic schools have a rich history throughout the Southern Tier. It wasn’t all that long ago that our Southern Tier Catholic School operated in both the St. John the Evangelist and St. Mary of the Angels’ parish school buildings,” said McAndrew, noting STCS joined with Walsh at the current campus in 2009. “Now we get to stay in the community and breathe new life into a Catholic-owned building we all know and love, while resolving financial issues that have been decades in the making. Another advantage to the St. Bonaventure, St. John’s and St. Mary’s parish school buildings is they’re located next to the actual church buildings, which will allow us to rebuild closer ties we once enjoyed with the local faith community.”

The Buffalo Diocese listed the Walsh/STCS property for sale for $300,000 before the 2022-23 school year. The building has been Walsh’s home since its construction in 1959. The Diocese has had several suitors for the property, one of whom had offered to donate the building back to the Board to continue use as a school.

“We had hoped that ownership would be our best path forward. In fact, over the past several years, the Board has offered to purchase the building more than once for fair-market value,” McAndrew said. “But as much as we’d like to continue tradition at this building, the reality is it’s just not financially feasible. Our student population doesn’t need this much space anymore, and a new roof and boiler system would cost over $2.5 million. That would be a poor investment and a disservice to both the students and the school’s major donors, who have generously helped bridge the gap through the years.”

“The school isn’t a building. The school is the people,” he added. “We’re excited to start a new tradition that allows us to continue focusing on great faith-based education, without financial distractions and worrying about where we’re going to be.”

The move would likely create a “potentially dramatic” cost savings, said Walsh/STCS President Dr. Colleen Taggerty. A preliminary estimate indicates the school could save over $30,000 per year on property maintenance, heating and other utilities. In the past several years, Taggerty noted, the school has spent nearly $100,000 in emergency roof and boiler repairs alone.

“With a reduction in repairs and maintenance costs, we can further invest in educational programs to better serve our students and support the needs of staff.” Taggerty said. “Our school administrators, Board members and teachers recently met with our Walsh/STCS families to get input on their current perceptions and visions for the future. All of it is being considered, because we now truly have an opportunity to shape the future.”

Walsh/STCS remains a viable alternative to the public education system. The school maintains a 100 percent graduation rate, 94 percent of graduates are college-bound, and many go on to attend some of the most selective colleges and universities in the country. Members of St. Bernard’s Parish (Bradford, Pa.) and the Seneca Nation of Indians can attend Walsh/STCS under scholarships covering 75 to 100 percent of tuition.

“Our goal at Walsh/STCS is to develop students who will go on to engage in meaningful lives of leadership and service,” McAndrew concluded. “The school’s amazing alumni are proof that throughout our history we have been successful at achieving that goal, and we look forward to continuing that tradition.”