The first Catholic high school in Northwest Arkansas will soon be opening its doors. In an exclusive first look, KNWA shows you why some are calling it a huge milestone for our area.
In August, students will be walking these halls at Ozark Catholic Academy for the first time. School officials say for over 20 years they’ve been trying to bring a Catholic high school to Northwest Arkansas and now the time has finally come.
“Being able to have a Catholic high school is very special to me.” said Olivia Burtis, a 9th Grader at Bentonville High School.
From Pre-K through 8th grade, Olivia Burtis attended a Catholic school in NWA. But when she made it to high school she no longer had that option.
“It was a huge transition because my old school was much smaller than a huge public high school so it was different .” said Burtis.
There are 2 Catholic schools in Northwest Arkansas; one in Rogers and one in Fayetteville. Both only serve up to the 8th grade.
“We’re the largest metropolitan population in the United States that does not have a Catholic high school.” said John Rocha, the Head of School at Ozark Catholic Academy.
Starting in August, Ozark Catholic Academy — in Tontitown — will offer 9th and 10th grade for students across Northwest Arkansas. 11th grade will be added in 2019 and the school hopes to add 12th grade in 2020. Rocha said this is something that’s long overdue.
“From 2000-2010 there’s been a population increase of 123% growth in both counties in terms of just Catholics so there’s a population need for a school.”
Rocha said they have 12 students signed up for classes next fall. They hope to have 35 come August.
“We anticipate a third of the school to be non-catholic and within 10 years we anticipate that we’ll have a population between 250-300 students here.” said Mark Braden, a member of the Governing Board.
Olivia — who’ll be in the 10th grade next year — said she can’t wait to walk through those doors on august 16th.
“I have friends that are like oh my gosh I’m so happy for you, I’m so glad you’re gonna be happy where you are.” said Burtis.
This will be the second Catholic high school in the entire state, the other being in Little Rock.