John S. Burke Catholic High School will begin a new era in the 2021-2022 school year by opening Burke Catholic Academy for middle school students that will nearly fill the building on its 62-acre Goshen campus to capacity.
The first full day of school for both the academy and the high school is Sept. 8.
“I think having the new students in the building will not only be incredible for us—a new opportunity for our administration and faculty—but our high school students are very excited because having a younger generation of students in the building will make them more responsible and will make them understand our mission more,” said Janice Clark, high school and academy principal.
Burke Catholic Academy had 159 students, 57 coming from public schools, enrolled in late July for grades six through eight, and a waiting list existed for seventh-graders still hoping to enter the academy.
School officials were expecting between 75 and 90 students and one class for each grade during the academy’s first year when the announcement of its formation came in February. With the added students, each grade will have two classes.
With 340 students enrolled as of late July in the high school, the campus will be close to its capacity of 550 students.
“I’m super excited, especially for the academy,” said Allie Gesztesi, a 17-year-old Burke Catholic rising senior and parishioner of St. John the Evangelist in Goshen. “It’ll make our family at Burke even bigger.
“It’s going to be a great year.”
John Douthit and Mrs. Clark will serve as president and principal of both the high school and middle school, respectively. They are two of the many school administrators, faculty and staff who attended Burke Catholic.
“It is incredibly exciting,” Douthit said of the added middle school and student enrollment being higher than anticipated. “That’s a testament to our team here. We have an incredible group that works here. No one measures their success by the dollars in their paycheck. They measure it by their commitment to their Catholic faith, their commitment to the children and the building. Our folks in the building have done an incredible job making sure we can be successful.”
Liam Drumgoole, a 2016 Burke Catholic graduate, will teach math at the high school for a second year. He said he’s “excited” about having the middle school students in the same building and offered why Burke Catholic is a great place for students and teachers.
“Definitely the sense of community is a big part of it. I always felt welcomed there,” he said.
Burke Catholic dates to 1899 when it was known as St. John’s Academic School. In 1904, the school moved and became known as the Garr Institute, which remained the school’s name until it was renamed St. John’s High School in 1946.
The current school building opened with 400 students in December 1964 and was dedicated by Cardinal Francis Spellman in May 1965 with its current name of Burke Catholic. An addition to the school opened in 1982.
The middle school students will have their own wing in the building, but will share rooms such as art and music with the high school students. High school and middle school students will have the opportunity to participate together in school clubs and activities, and a modified sports program for middle-school children is being added.
A personalized education is offered, said Mrs. Clark. “So every student that walks into the building is not a number, they’re a person with a name.
“When parents leave here, often they tell us this was the best decision they ever made for their child.”
The school received assistance from the archdiocese to upgrade the building’s structure with new windows and a new roof, among other enhancements.
The school also has improved its campus by adding a new outdoor track, and new bleachers in the gymnasium, and convertinged the library into a student union center.
“Our commitment to the parents is we're going to hold your child accountable in the building, then you as a parent we’re asking to make a significant financial commitment to us but you get to hold us accountable,” Douthit said.
“Our challenge is delivering on what we spoke to our families about; it’s delivering on that accountability, delivering the great product, delivering of value to the middle school and high school students.”