Holy Cross opens in August at St. Elizabeth’s

For at least a decade, a Catholic high school has been a dream in the Permian Basin. In August, it will become a reality with the opening of Holy Cross Catholic High School.
To be located temporarily at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church, Holy Cross is set to open Aug. 14. There will be an opening mass Aug. 11. Head of School Carolyn Gonzalez said people in Odessa, Midland and across the area have come together on the effort.
“We’ll be here for two years as we wait for the building to be built,” Head of School Carolyn Gonzalez said.
Fasken Oil and Ranch Ltd. has donated about 55 acres of land on Holiday Hill Road in Midland to the nonprofit Permian Basin Catholic High School. The campus will sit on about 30 acres, board member Roy Ramirez said.
Enrollment is continuing. Gonzalez said there are currently 18 students signed up, 16 of which are freshmen and two of which are sophomores.
 “We’re on track to break ground in February of 2020. The goal there is to have these sophomores that are coming in this year — right now there are two of them — graduate in their building, so we’ll move over there in time for their senior year and they can graduate. And all of that is on track,” Ramirez said.
The architecture firm of Huckabee is designing the school, which will be state of the art. Talks with a builder are ongoing.
From a video about the school, it appears it will have lots of windows and natural light and have moveable walls that can be written on and desks that can be written on, Gonzalez said.
 “At the high school, we really want to get away from the traditional sit-and-get and the luxury we’ll have is that our classrooms won’t be any larger than about 22-1. With a small class size, our teachers will be able to utilize everything inside the room and outside the room in their teaching. That’s what’s exciting,” Gonzalez said.
 “We continue to get inquiries every day and have three parent tours this week, so we have a lot of interest coming, I think, since school is out,” Gonzalez said in a May 30 interview. “Parents are kind of relaxing. Students are there at home and they’re curious. We’ve had a lot of parents call and say my student, my child, my son is curious about the school, can we come and look at it, so that’s a good thing. We’ve got the word out now in a positive light. Our students are ready to come and look at what we’re doing here.”
Ramirez said he thinks it’s a little bit that the students are out of school and their interest has been piqued and that their parents are potentially facing the reality that their children may no longer be in a Catholic school setting, so they want to take a closer look.
Tuition will be $12,500 tuition a year. Students will wear uniforms with the school colors of black and gold.
“Our belief is that once they get with us, they’re not going to leave us but as long as they’re with us, they’ll lock in that $12,500,” Gonzalez said.
Courses like Spanish I and II will be offered and Gonzalez said Holy Cross is working with different people in the community provide fine arts to students this year. Music also will be offered.
Holy Cross will have six-man football, volleyball, basketball, track and cross country. Gonzalez said they are working to partner with the golf course across the road to offer golf.
A football schedule has been created. Ramirez said they will be playing junior varsities so they don’t get their freshmen and sophomores hurt. As the students grow, the program will grow, he said.
Other schools they may play are Garden City, Grady, Christ the King Cathedral School in Lubbock and Holy Cross Catholic Academy in Amarillo.
Gonzalez said the school has partnered with Odessa College to offer dual credit courses.
Laptops will be provided to students and books will be ebooks or accessible online to save space and students’ backs because there won’t be any lockers.
STREAM will be the focus of Holy Cross, Gonzalez said. That is science, technology, engineering, art and math with religion added. And she said the school will be problem based.
“Our goal is to give students problems so that they can work collaboratively, thinking critically and come up with solutions. What we want them to see is there’s not one solution to any given problem and that together they can come up with one of the best solutions,” Gonzalez said.
Ramirez said that is preparation for real-world scenarios.
“That opportunity to figure those things out in a collaborative setting is really exciting,” he said.
Gonzalez said students ask all the time why they have to learn things and why certain subjects are important in life.
“Only as adults do we realize why we really have to learn the things we learn. We want to bring that to the classroom so they understand how you use algebra to solve a problem; why is history important when we’re debating something in English …,” she said.
“We want to connect the learning, so that students understand the reasons why they do what they do so when they leave us and they go to college it makes sense and they can take those skills and apply them …,” she added.
The school also plans to have a mentoring program for students’ junior and senior year so students can find out what they’re interested in by learning about people’s actual jobs and what it takes to get there.
The goal, she said, is to build strong children who become young adults who love their God and give back to the community.
Holy Cross will work with the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops and the Texas Education Agency for accreditation.
The Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops Education Department (TCCB ED) cooperates with diocesan school offices to oversee the accreditation of Catholic schools in Texas, Gonzalez said in an email.
As collaboration continued with the state via TEA, the Texas Association of Non-Public Schools (TANS) and a core group of private school associations, a single umbrella organization for private school accreditation was formed, the Texas Private School Accreditation Commission (TEPSAC).
The Texas Catholic Conference Education Department, through its association with TEPSAC, is recognized by the Texas Education Agency, and is responsible for the implementation of the accreditation process for Texas Catholic schools, she said.
Gonzalez said the difference between Holy Cross and other schools is that everyone’s faith will be evident.
“For the first time, we’ll have a Catholic high school in the Permian Basin and it will be throughout the day, so it’s not only about chapel every morning and mass every Friday. And it’s not just about the theology course that we’ll offer for every grade level that they have to take, but it’s more about throughout the day our students being able to witness, talk about, discuss their faith,” Gonzalez said.
All of the teachers right now are Catholic. Plans are to hire six instructors this year and four are on board, she said.
“They don’t have to be. We’re not saying every teacher we hire will be Catholic, but we are looking primarily toward Catholic educators because of the faith piece that has to be built into the lessons. But I think what’s exciting is that our students can pray before meals. They can talk about their God and they don’t have to worry about it not being acceptable in another area …,” Gonzalez said.
St. Stephen’s parish has donated one of its buses for Holy Cross to provide transportation to students to and from Midland and to and from Odessa.
“We’ll have a pick-up site at St. Ann’s (in Midland) and then a pick up site at St. Mary’s (in Odessa), so our students will have transportation options. I think that was just a really gracious gift from the church to our school and a testament to the belief that they want our high school to be successful and they are willing to do what they can make it successful,” Gonzalez said.
With the independent governance model the school has chosen, Ramirez said it is not tied to one specific parish. He said this has brought to light the ways other parishes have stepped up.
“… San Miguel parish has provided a scholarship. Our Lady of Guadalupe in Midland also has a committee that will have ongoing fundraising events for any parents and any parishioners and any students that are being sent from Our Lady of Guadalupe,” Ramirez said.
He added that a scholarship has been made available from St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, as well.
Gonzalez said Fr. Mark Woodruff at St. Elizabeth’s has been an amazing host.
“Everything we have right now, he is asking for nothing in return. He’s just totally, I think, sold out to the belief that we need a high school and is willing to give and participate in everything we have. … He’s been amazing, but he did set up a scholarship for our students at St. Elizabeth’s. … We have one right now that’s taking advantage of that,” Gonzalez said.