Holy Cross High School, the region’s Catholic high school which was at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church, is now at The Way Retreat Center in Midland.

Head of School Carolyn Gonzalez said the new school, for which fundraising was underway, is on hold. The school moved at the end of December, but started classes in January.

Gonzalez said the Holy Cross board president and The Way Retreat met and began talking to both boards to discuss an agreement.

“That’s how it started was that they knew each other and they saw the needs of each organization and came together,” she said.

Holy Cross High School students sit through their morning chapel service Thursday, May 6, 2021, at The Way Retreat Center in Midland. (Eli Hartman|Odessa American)

“This is our home and so we’re really concentrating on working with The Way Retreat Center to continue the partnership, so that our students are able to stay here for as long as we can,” Gonzalez said.

Fasken Oil and Ranch Ltd. agreed several years ago to donate almost 50 acres of land on Holiday Hill Road in Midland to the nonprofit Permian Basin Catholic High School. Holland said there will be 29 buildable acres.

The school would have been on Holiday Hill Road, south of the Tom and Nadine Craddick Highway/State Highway 349 Reliever Route near Green Tree North and the Green Tree Country Club.

Gonzalez said because of the pandemic and the community’s economic trials, construction of the new school was halted.

“We are prayerful that a long-term agreement is created with WRC and that we are able to build on site in the future …,” she said.

The courtyard of The Way Retreat Center is seen photographed on Thursday, May 6, 2021, in Midland. (Eli Hartman|Odessa American)

Alvin Navarrete, director of The Way Retreat Center, said Michael LaMonica, the landowner of the center, felt strongly about having the school on his land. LaMonica is a deacon at San Miguel Arcangel in Midland.

Navarrete said when the school was talking about constructing a building, LaMonica said they could come out to the center, put their school there and use the existing facilities.

The retreat has casitas, villas and a courtyard that are used during the week for classes. The center is used for events like weddings, quinceaneras and spiritual retreats mostly on weekends.

Brad Gibson, president of the Holy Cross board, confirmed that the school will be making its home at The Way Retreat.

“We are looking at trying to construct a gym and a top-of-the line science lab. At this point, we are not looking at the Holiday Hill Road property anymore,” Gibson said.

This is an opportunity to get into a first rate facility that’s already constructed and there is room to grow.

“We think it’s going to be a great marriage,” Gibson said.

Holy Cross High School freshmen Ben Bowman, 15, left, and his classmate Ethan Bollinger, 15, prepare before the start of their Spanish class Thursday, May 6, 2021, at The Way Retreat Center in Midland. (Eli Hartman|Odessa American)

He added that donations are welcome as they have not finished gathering contributions for the gym and science lab.

“It was kind of a win-win situation,” Navarrete said. “He was able to help house the school. That was always a dream of his and also a welcome addition to the Retreat Center. … I’ve been able to see them daily and interact with them. It’s been a true blessing for me personally to have them out here.”

Gonzalez said the staff and students love their new location.

“They’ve been so good to us …”

She added that anything the school needs, the center takes care of.

“… They have a wonderful staff that has now become our staff. We have a chef who takes care of our kids and makes meals. We have a director who … helps us with the security of the building. …,” Gonzalez said.

A Holy Cross High School teacher holds her rosary beads during morning chapel service Thursday, May 6, 2021, at The Way Retreat Center in Midland. (Eli Hartman|Odessa American)

She noted that they didn’t have to leave St. Elizabeth.

“We left with sadness because we loved St Elizabeth. Fr. Mark (Woodruff) and his team they’re just kind and they were always so good. It was that we needed to grow; our school needs to grow; we need more students. So, in order to grow, we needed a bigger environment, a larger environment and this is where we’re at.”

The Way’s chapel was built so that any faith can use The Way.

“All faiths are welcome, at our school, and we welcome students of all faiths,” Gonzalez said.

The school had 32 students this year and will have its first senior class graduate in 2022, she said. There are 13 staff members all together, including seven core subject teachers.

The last couple of years have been challenging due to COVID-19. She noted that the teachers at Holy Cross always tried to ensure that every student received a quality education.

Holy Cross High School junior Matthew Crawley, 17, left, shows his U.S. History teacher Lauren Rieves a slide from his powerpoint during class Thursday, May 6, 2021, at The Way Retreat Center in Midland. (Eli Hartman|Odessa American)

“… I just think every teacher in America should be given a gold medal to commemorate this year that they endured and did (it) with a smile. Our teachers, they come with a good attitude. You see them, they’re happy; they’re teaching and they come every day, ready to teach knowing what could hit them — COVID-19,” Gonzalez said.

However, Holy Cross hasn’t had trouble keeping people because of the pandemic.

“Because we are so small, we’re able to cover for each other, take the classes. We have really been blessed that we’ve not had to lose anybody to COVID-19. We’ve had COVID-19 in the building when it very first started, but after December. We have not had to go into quarantine because of COVID-19. We did take a week after spring break and we had virtual class to ensure everybody took those 10 days; make sure they didn’t have any symptoms before we came back to in person, and that really helped us because we’ve had nothing come from that.”

Gonzalez added that parents have been wonderful at monitoring their students’ health “because they know that we’re so small that if one student, or one teacher comes down with COVID-19 we’re all done. We all have to go in quarantine.”

The school offers volleyball, six-man football and the teams are called the Crusaders, or sometimes the Lady Crusaders. Teams play Midland Christian, Lorraine, Marathon, Forsan, Imperial, Trinity and sometimes any team that can fit them into their schedule.

She added that things a public high school would have such as transportation is now available at Holy Cross.

“We have one bus, but it’s a small one … We do not have a big bus. … We do bus from Odessa to here and then from here back to Odessa, so that the students in the outer parts of Midland and then Odessa have a place that they can go to and get on the bus,” Gonzalez said.