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Catholic Vancouver Sep 9, 2017

New Catholic high school planned for South Surrey

By Agnieszka Krawczynski

This artist's rendering shows how the new John Paul II Academy may look. (Submitted)

SURREY—This time next year, educators will open a brand-new Catholic high school in an area that desperately needs one.

“The need has been recognized for many, many years,” said superintendent Dan Moric. “For at least the past 20 years, that I’m aware of, there has been talk, conversation, and aspiration towards a South Surrey high school.”

That aspiration may become a reality in September 2018 with John Paul II Academy.

The school already has a principal, an archbishop’s representative, groups of stakeholders and interested parents, and a financial plan, and by next fall, Moric expects it will welcome its first class of about 60 Grade 8 students.

“The area is growing in leaps and bounds. It’s the demographic that is most underrepresented by Catholic schools,” Moric said. “By year five, we might have 400 to 500 kids. By year 10, we’re hoping and dreaming of that school of 800.”

John Paul II Academy will be temporarily run out of Good Shepherd Parish while an actual school building is erected at 184 Street near 24 Ave. Plans are to start classes in that new structure during the 2019-20 school year.

“This is a bold new initiative for the archdiocese,” said Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB.

“This school will help us meet the growing demand for Catholic education in the South Surrey area as this part of the Lower Mainland continues to grow and develop.”

Artist's rendering.
Artist's rendering.

The John Paul II Academy presents a shift in approach as Catholic Independent Schools of the Vancouver Archdiocese (CISVA) tries a new way of funding a new school.

Moric calls the plan a “hybrid” of the way CISVA schools and Catholic congregational schools like Vancouver College, St. Thomas More Collegiate, and Little Flower Academy are operated. “It’s a unique model” that includes asking families to commit to an enrolment deposit and higher tuition than other CISVA schools, he said. It’s won’t be strictly a “regional” school, and anyone interested can sign up their child.

“Years ago, it was relatively inexpensive to build a single-stream wood frame elementary school. It was doable for many parishes. Now, looking at a high school in particular, these are significant investments of $30-40 million. With all the competing interests in the archdiocese, there just isn’t enough resources to go around,” he said.

“Should this work, we will be able to get a new high school in an area that has been asking for a high school for years.”

Moric believes the hybrid model means a school will go up much faster. “All of this is about creating a model that allows this to happen in 2018 and not have us still dreaming and thinking about it in 2028.”

Conceptual drawings of the proposed new school.

The principal for the new school, Michel DesLauriers, is excited for John Paul II Academy.

“I’m honoured that I have been asked to take on this task. I realize that it’s also daunting and challenging, but I’m looking forward to every step of the way.”

Before taking on this role, DesLauriers was the principal of St. Thomas More Collegiate for six years. He has also been a teacher and assistant principal at Vancouver College.

The academy “is just another wonderful opportunity to bring Catholic education and the message of the Gospel to a number of families and students that there’s a real need for. It’s a great opportunity for us.”