OLEAN, NY – Archbishop Walsh Academy/Southern Tier Catholic School has secured a home for the future – a familiar one long rooted in faith tradition. Following the current school year, Walsh/STCS will move to the former St. John’s School to prepare for the 2023-24 academic year.
Less than a month after announcing the school would relocate next year, Walsh/STCS officials reached an agreement with the Diocese of Buffalo and St. John’s Parish to move the school from the North 24th Street campus to St. John’s on North Union Street.
“Now we can actually focus on the future,” said Frank McAndrew, Walsh/STCS Board President. “This move keeps our identity as a faith-based institution and allows us to move forward without worrying about maintaining an aging building that no longer effectively serves our student body. We’re now in a better position to preserve and build upon the great education offered here – because that’s been the goal all along.”
The focus, McAndrew noted, will be continuing to nurture individualized learning with small class sizes in a faith-based environment.
“That’s going to be so much easier now that we will be able to invest in teachers and student programming, rather than emergency building repairs,” he added. “Moving to St. John’s will allow us to truly focus on what we do and who we are.”
Walsh/STCS President Dr. Colleen Taggerty further noted several priority areas for growth.
“We’ll be excited to introduce online learning clubs among our extracurricular offerings. We’ll even be working hard to implement e-sports because they’re so incredibly popular and key to a well-rounded learning experience in today’s digital age,” Taggerty said. “Numerous Walsh/STCS families said in a recent survey that we could improve our extracurricular activities to supplement the lessons learned in our classrooms. We agree. We’ve listened. Now we have the capacity to make it happen.”
Walsh/STCS will move the Montessori pre-K through eighth-grade programs of Southern Tier Catholic School, as well as the Archbishop Walsh Academy ninth- through 12th-grade programs to St. John’s. The high school curriculum will begin a new partnership with Catholic Virtual, a hybrid digital instruction model that will fill teaching vacancies and eliminate scheduling conflicts. It also offers additional online learning capacity to network and study alongside students from partner schools around the world.
“That future is already here,” McAndrew said, “and we have a responsibility to prepare our high schoolers to thrive in a 21st-century work environment where our graduates will be collaborating with co-workers and employers both in person and in remote locations. We’ll provide in-person instruction and mentoring in our space, while augmenting their lessons here with class offerings that are unavailable in most other high school environments. Where else can a student take Chinese, website design and aeronautics at all, let alone in a way that fits their busy schedules?”
Southern Tier Catholic School was formed in 1987 as a consolidation of St. John’s and St. Mary of the Angels, which were the two remaining parochial elementary schools in the region at that time. STCS joined Walsh at the current North 24th Street campus in 2009. The Diocese of Buffalo listed the Walsh/STCS building for sale last summer to comply with guidance given by the Bankruptcy Court. After several attempts to purchase the building for fair-market value, the Board of Directors opted for a more fiscally responsible path that builds for the future, McAndrew said.
The St. John’s homecoming is particularly fitting with a smaller physical footprint for a more intimate academic setting, said Walsh/STCS Board Vice President Brittany Thierman.
“We understand the nostalgia many of our alumni and supporters have for Walsh as a place – myself included,” said Thierman, a Walsh Class of 2007 alum. “We tried to recreate the past, and it’s not possible. It’s not even wise. Does the private school experience need to be the same one from 25 years ago? We’re not preparing children for a world 25 or 50 years ago. We’re preparing them for the next 50.”