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Saint Michael the Archangel High School officially recognized by diocese

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In 2006, a group of parents with a strong desire for Catholic education came together to open a new private school in Fredericksburg. When their initial request for recognition was rejected a decade ago, they did not give up. Their efforts were rewarded in 2017 when the diocese invited them to reapply for recognition. Now after more than a decade, the diocese has recognized Saint Michael the Archangel High School in Fredericksburg as an independent Catholic school in the Arlington Diocese.

Jennifer Bigelow, superintendent of Catholic schools, delivered the news at the high school May 22.

“This is an exciting time for the Diocese of Arlington,” said Bigelow. “The recognition of Saint Michael the Archangel High School as an independent Catholic school is a testament to the commitment of Catholic education in our diocese. The Office of Catholic Schools looks forward to collaborating with the school.”

"It is with great honor and joy that I designate Saint Michael the Archangel High School a Catholic, independent school in the Diocese of Arlington," said Bishop Michael F. Burbidge in a statement. "This designation carries responsibility and distinction, as it required the school to demonstrate a Christ-oriented mission, excellent academic standards and a firm and unwavering commitment to Catholic identity. I congratulate all at Saint Michael the Archangel High School, especially the parents who make such profound sacrifices for their child to receive an authentic Catholic education. This is a truly historic day in the life of this faith community."

Hugh Brown, one of the co-founders and a parent of one of the students, thanked the many teachers — past and present — who have worked for less and given so much of themselves.

“The school is the staff, and their selfless love and commitment are the reasons we exist today,” said Brown. 

The founders identified a need for a Catholic high school in the southern part of the diocese. The closest Catholic options for students were Seton School in Manassas and Saint John Paul the Great Catholic High School in Potomac Shores, a 45-minute drive from Fredericksburg with no traffic.

Ann Lewis, principal of Saint Michael the Archangel, believes the recognition will give the school the validation they need to attract parents who were previously on the fence about sending their children to the high school.

“It gives Catholic and Christian families the added comfort that we have to follow diocesan guidelines,” said Lewis.

As an independent Catholic school, they are required to follow regulations to ensure Catholic authenticity. The school must be accredited and show financial stability. The principal and sacred studies teachers must be practicing Catholics in good standing, and the sacred studies curriculum must include the approved text and resources designated by the diocese.

In addition, each faculty member must be catechist certified within two to three years of employment depending on the courses they teach. The school also must have an active board of Catholic members including one representative from the diocese and be able to provide statistical data regarding faculty, staff and students.

One of the unique aspects of the school is its close association with the Catholic pro-life organization, American Life League, which helped found the school.

“We take part in all the major marches that go on for pro-life,” said Lewis. “The kids are very active in making sure that it is part and parcel of what they believe.”

The school currently has 67 students but has a capacity for more than 100. The facilities, including a gym, swimming pool and classroom space, enable the school to provide a college preparatory curriculum with small class sizes, while also offering a variety of sports competing in the D3 Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association League and Battlefield Conference.

The school offers dual enrollment classes with Germanna Community College and college-level AP classes in mathematics, science, art, English and history. Many of the students are active members of both the National Honor Society and the National Art Honor Society.

Senior Ryan Malanga has enjoyed the school’s tight-knit community.

“You know your teachers and they know when you aren’t doing what you are supposed to be doing, because they know how you usually perform,” said Malanga. “If I went to a public school, I would not be able to do the same level of sports that I do here. I played basketball, golf and soccer.”

The school’s longest-serving teacher, Steve Johnson, said, “I discovered teaching 18 years ago and I wish I had discovered it 38 years ago because apparently, it was what my whole life was oriented at learning to do.”

Johnson feels this new designation signals the end of the 13-year-warm up and the school’s real beginning now.

Kassock is a freelancer from Stafford.


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2019