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Regina Academies Announces New Education Track Amid Increasing Demand for Classical Education

Philosophy-Busts [1]A new classical education track called the Regina Chesterton Academy at Cardinal O’Hara High School was recently announced as the fifth venture of the Regina Academies, a group of Catholic classical schools that have seen great success in Pennsylvania and indicate a growing demand for classical models in K-12 education.

“The classical model of education is once again rising and flourishing across the country as a vibrant trend in Catholic education,” said James Growdon, executive director of the Regina Academies, in an interview with The Cardinal Newman Society. “It is being remembered and pressed into action as a preferred antidote to the failed educational experiments of the last seventy-five years.”

The Regina Chesterton Academy education track will be integrated at Cardinal O’Hara High School in Springfield, Penn., and will utilize a classical curriculum developed by Chesterton Academy in Edina, Minn., which is a School of Excellence on The Cardinal Newman Society’s Catholic Education Honor Roll [2]. Starting in September 2016, the program will be available to freshmen and sophomores, and will be a full, four-year program by September 2018.

“Part of the Chesterton approach is to augment the educational curriculum with frequent communal prayer, the study of Sacred Scripture and landmark papal encyclicals, and bi-annual trips to Rome for juniors and seniors,” a press release [3] on the Regina Academies website noted.

Growdon noted that the program is unique in the country, as “it is the first time that an (arch)diocesan high school has embraced the Catholic classical model.” 

Tom Fertal, president of Cardinal O’Hara High School, told the Newman Society that “from the O’Hara perspective, this program will attract new students — which we fully expect will include Regina graduates as well as homeschooled students and ‘traditional’ students who may be attracted to the unique nature of the program.”

“We certainly see this program as ‘leaven in the bread’ as our school is going through a period of renewal in terms of our academics, spiritual life, admissions and advancement initiatives,” said Fertal.

High school students who participate in this education track will learn the Trivium (grammar, rhetoric and logic) and the Quadrivium (arithmetic, music, geometry and astronomy) and take four years of philosophy, which includes courses in logic, epistemology, metaphysics, ethics and anthropology.

The four other Regina Academy schools — all located in Pennsylvania — are Regina Angelorum Academy in Ardmore, Regina Coeli Academy in Abington, Reginia Luminis Academy in Downingtown, and The Regina Academy at St. John the Baptist in Ottsville.

“Of our four academies, only one — Regina Luminis — offers a four-year high school program and it is located in Downingtown which is simply too far for many of our students,” explained Barbara Henkels, foundress of the Regina Academies, in the press release. “Having a second classical high school academy, and one much closer to the city of Philadelphia, will allow us to offer an educational continuity that many of our parents have wanted for years.”

Founded in 2003, the Regina Academies “provide educational opportunities to families who desire schools with robust Catholic identity and proven time tested standards,” said Growdon. Common Core standards are not utilized, and a focus on the Trivium and primary texts is emphasized.

This approach develops students “into lifelong learners and impacts them as future leaders,” said Growdon. “The emphasis is to provide a foundation of education, community and curriculum which will sow roots so that a young person will desire to stay a lifelong practicing Catholic.”

“If there is a secret to the Regina Academies, it is that these schools are communities of faith, where teachers understand their mission as a vocation to serve Christ and His Church,” Growdon told the Society.

Demand for the kind of education offered at the Regina Academies has continued to increase through the years, said Growdon. More than 400 students from more than 200 families are currently enrolled in the four Regina Academies, three of which are PreK-8 with the remaining school being PreK-12.

“Many families desire for their children to drink deeply of the truths of the Holy Faith, so that they may be better prepared for what they will encounter in this world,” Growdon noted. “The classical model is a much more attractive model of education than one which confines ‘thinking’ and relegates ‘knowledge’ to the simple regurgitation of ideas found in single word answers or Scantron tests.”

Along with the Regina Academies, many of the schools listed in the Newman Society’s Honor Roll employ classical models of education. In a recent Newman Society article [4] on Common Core concerns, several administrators from Honor Roll schools noted their belief that Common Core standards remain largely incompatible with classical education models that emphasize intellectual and moral formation.

John Niemann, headmaster of Chesterton Academy — which is collaborating with Regina Chesterton Academy to incorporate its own classical curriculum — said that Common Core standards were “irrelevant” to the Academy because “its standards are far below those we have set for ourselves” and “our families expect more.”

“To those who might turn their attention, the Catholic classical model is serving to remind that instead of settling for new and ever-changing educational possibilities, a person just might want to consider some of the best educational possibilities which were ever offered,” Growdon pointed out.

“It is our desire that the Regina Chesterton Academy at Cardinal O’Hara High School will thrive and alert Catholics of the beauty and possibilities of the Catholic classical model of education, so that other area Catholic high schools may desire to implement such a program for their own students,” said Growdon.